Reconciliation Is Not Negotiation
On Monday, President Barack Obama finally unveiled his proposed legislation to reform health insurance. More than a year in the making, the plan comes just days ahead of a bipartisan Blair House this Thursday. Yet the proposal shows a lack of good faith.
The President’s plan is drafted in a way that envisions the use of a highly partisan parliamentary tactic, reconciliation, to pass the bill. Reconciliation could allow liberals in Congress to ignore the concerns of Republicans, moderate Democrats and the American people during the legislative process. The President’s plan to use reconciliation to ram ObamaCare through Congress is not consistent with the idea of conducting a good-faith negotiation on comprehensive health care reform between reasonable minded Republicans and Democrats.
This abuse of the reconciliation process has been called the Health Care Nuclear Option by conservatives, because it’s a way to avoid the regular legislative process and prevent a filibuster in the Senate.
Reconciliation was created by the 1974 Budget Act to pass tax cuts, deficit reductions and debt-limit modifications. This is supposed to be a tool that Congress uses to balance the budget, yet the Obama administration wants to use this as a means of last resort when the regular rules have failed it. Reconciliation is a fast track procedure that wouldn’t allow members to fully debate this measure, and there is no expectation that this new reconciliation measure will be the subject of transparent hearings in the House and Senate.
This new proposal also shows disrespect for the request of Republicans invited to the negotiation. On February 8, John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel which asked, “assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over so that we can develop a bill that is truly worthy of the support and confidence of the American people?” The President has taken actions that show he will not agree to start over. The President’s new proposal is merely a warmed over version of ObamaCare that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, therefore the first condition of the negotiation has been rejected by the President.
The President seems to have taken such an extreme position in this negotiation that he is banking on Republicans not agreeing to his terms, and then he can blame Republicans for the supposed “breakdown” of bipartisanship. The Washington Post quoted White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer saying, “this is an opening bid for the health meeting.” It will be very interesting to see what concessions, if any, the White House makes at the summit.
The new ObamaCare proposal contains 10 sections described on the White House web site. This new proposal is expected to put the cost of ObamaCare at well over $1 trillion over 10 years, even using estimates favorable to the Obama Administration. The highlights of the new proposal are a delay on the Senate’s excise tax on high-end insurance plans, as requested by Big Labor, until 2018. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has been lobbying to get the Cornhusker Kickback out of the bill and the administration has a provision to remove it. The President’s proposal appears to leave intact the Senate provisions that allow the federal funding of abortion through ObamaCare. There is a new federal bureaucracy created, the Health Insurance Rate Board, that would have the power to control private health care insurance rates. The White House claims this updated version of ObamaCare was drafted as a starting point for negotiations, and it’s calling on Republicans to roll out an alternative proposal.
Considering the American people’s strong opposition to ObamaCare, the fact that the President is still trying to pass a version of his bill defies logic and shows contempt for voters. The people of Massachusetts elected Scott Brown to the Senate after he campaigned on the promise to block the President’s health care bill. Numerous polls indicate that indicate that Americans dislike ObamaCare by wide margins. A recent Rasmussen poll indicates that 35 percent want Congress to pass ObamaCare versus 54 percent who want to wait for a new Congress. This administration shouldn’t come to the negotiating table with an extreme plan that has been soundly rejected by the American people.