Democrats--fully aware of the political risks of using reconciliation to pass health care reform--have sought protection by listing dozens of times the process has been used with little fallout. That fact was lost on Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who slammed the idea of reconciling the bill in an op-ed for the Washington Post. Hatch thundered that reconciliation "would threaten our system of checks and balances, corrode the legislative process, degrade our system of government and damage the prospects of bipartisanship."
The op-ed drew praise from a few conservative bigwigs. "Great piece by @OrrinHatch on the unprecedented danger of using reconciliation health care," tweeted Karl Rove. On the other side, an armada of bloggers lined up to blast Hatch for a variety of factual errors.
- Wrong on the Constitution "It's true that the Constitution requires a supermajority vote in certain circumstances -- but under no reading of the Constitution is it required to hold a supermajority vote on legislation, no matter how big or controversial," writes Joel Mathis at Cup o' Joel, debunking one of Hatch's main contentions. "Whether it's wise or good to use the process is a separate question; but it's silly to suggest it's somehow unconstitutional."
- Wrong on His Voting Record Think Progress' Zaid Jilani debunks Hatch's argument that reconciliation is in general an "abuse" of power. "What Hatch fails to mention is that he has voted for bills passed through reconciliation every single time a bill was offered through the process during the Bush years," Jilani says, helpfully providing a list of all the reconciled bills Hatch voted for. The Plum Line's Greg Sargent compiles a similar list.
- Wrong on the Terms Themselves At Capital Gains and Games, conservative Andrew Samick balks at Hatch's misuse of the word 'democracy'. "Senator Hatch may like the way the Senate requires supermajorities and other obstacles to the simplest version of majority rule that most of us think of when we hear the word 'democracy,' but he shouldn't go redefining words on his own," Samick lectures. "That's not what language is for."
- Wrong on Everything Steve Benen doesn't single out one particular error--the entire column disgusts him. The Washington Monthly columnist unleashes a furious denunciation of Hatch's "intellectually dishonest nonsense" that is in sum "a sad joke".
Hatch has been around long enough (he joined the Senate 33 years ago) to know that his claims aren't true. He says reconciliation is "arcane," but it's not. Hatch argues President Obama wants to use majority rule to pass the health care reform package, but he doesn't. Hatch says the Constitution discourages the Senate from approving legislation by majority rule, but it doesn't.
We're not talking about gray areas, or debates that are open to interpretation -- Hatch is simply and unambiguously wrong.