The other day, the Politico reported that a handful of Senate Republicans are now considering reconciliation as a vehicle for tax reform. Reconciliation, you may recall, is the process by which the Congress fast tracks changes to the budget. In 2010, Obama and the Democrats used reconciliation to pass Obamacare.
Reconciliation is a potent weapon in the Senate arsenal because it only requires 51 votes to succeed. It’s not subject to the same filibuster hurdles that stall pretty much every other bill in the Senate. It’s a one-shot, Hail Mary pass for getting policy priorities signed into law – which is exactly why conservatives have practically been salivating over the opportunity to use reconciliation to repeal Obamacare.
So why are certain Senate Republicans talking about using it for tax reform, instead of repealing Obamacare? Because they don’t want to make good on their campaign promises to repeal the health care law “root and branch” (right, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mitch McConnellSenate Republican Average67%?). They simply don’t want to do what it takes to repeal Obamacare.
There are two things very wrong with a tax-reform-through-reconciliation strategy. First, reconciliation isn’t needed to pass tax reform. The President will not sign a bill that doesn’t have the support of at least six Democrat senators. If more than six Democrats vote for the bill, reconciliation isn’t needed because there will be more than 60 votes for cloture. Also consider what kind of plan would attract that many Democrats: one that contains Democratic tax priorities – trillion-dollar tax increases, wealth transfers, and other tax code inequities. Any attempt at tax reform should be done outside of reconciliation, and wait until we have a Republican in the White House.
The bigger problem, though, is the lack of testicular fortitude to be found in Senate Republicans. Three weeks into the 114th Congress and they’re already flailing, attempting to avoid the accountability that came with their election certificates. These same Senate Republicans promised the voters that they would fully repeal Obamacare (see “campaign promises” under McConnell, Mitch) and not only that, but they would do it through reconciliation – the best vehicle for repeal. But now all we’re hearing are excuses – it’s too hard, it’s procedurally complicated, people won’t agree with us.
This is exactly the kind of behavior that disgusts the voters. We sent these politicians to Washington to fight, and it’s time for a throw down. We can strike major blows at Obamacare through reconciliation. Yes, procedural battles will have to be fought, and yes, some of them will be difficult. But surrendering our political priorities to procedural minutiae before even trying to mount a repeal fight is 100% pathetic.
Senate Republicans were given a clear mandate to roll back Obamacare. The only way to do so is through the 51-vote reconciliation process. It’s time to stop pussy-footing around with excuses and half-assed attempts at partial repeal, and get serious. Make Obama veto the repeal of his signature legislation right as more and more Americans are suddenly seeing major cost increases and service declines. A group of Republicans who love symbols should surely love that symbol more than most.