Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne have taken their tussle over reconciliation from the op-ed pages to the TV studio. After Hatch attacked the Democratic plan to pass health care reform through the reconciliation process in an op-ed last Tuesday, Dionne responded in his column. (See other errors in Hatch's column here.) The two then continued bickering on Sunday's Meet the Press.
- Hatch's opening argument, March 2: Calling reconciliation "an arcane budget procedure," Hatch pulls no punches:
Rejected at first by a majority of senators as an inappropriate way to pass health care, reconciliation was revived after Scott Brown's Senate victory in January. Confronted with the inconvenient truth of an electoral rebuke, the president is pivoting to this tactic that polls show a growing majority of the American people oppose ... if the only way to pass this $2.5 trillion bill is through reconciliation, then this continues to be an abuse that stifles dissent and badly undermines our constitutional checks and balances.
- Dionne's return fire, March 4: Dionne says Hatch's arguments are hypocritical, given Republican success using reconciliation. He contests Hatch's grasp of the facts, and ends with an argument about morality, quoting the late Ted Kennedy's argument that health care is "a fundamental right and not a privilege." Writes Dionne: "it's not just legitimate to use reconciliation to complete the work on health reform. It would be immoral to do otherwise and thereby let a phony argument about process get in the way of health coverage for 30 million Americans."
- 'Sweeping Social Legislation,' says Hatch: On Meet the Press, Hatch says this is not a fight between Democrats and Republicans but rather between "Democrats and the people," whom are generally against this bill. Democrats, he says, want to "abuse the reconciliation rules ... the reconciliation rules have never been used for such sweeping social legislation like this. This is one-sixth of the American economy."
- Republicans Dislike Poor People, suggests Dionne: Dionne points out that this is not the first time a president has pursued a policy with poor support in the polls. Bush did the same and Iraq and was called "courageous" for it. Furthermore, he points to five cases of a Republican senate using reconciliation to pass legislation with fewer than 60 votes. "I didn't hear Senator Hatch complain about that." He suggests what Hatch is really saying that "it's okay to use reconcililation to pass tax cuts for the wealthy but it's just terrible to use it if you're gonna extend health care coverage."
- Descent into Fruitless Bickering: "You cannot ignore," counters Hatch, "the fact that we are talking about the first time in history sweeping social legislation will be passed--if they get their way--by a totally partisan vote." Responds Dionne, "what Senator Hatch is saying is--if Republicans unite and say we won't vote for this and you need bipartisanship--he's saying Democrats can't govern and..." At this point, Hatch interjects "well, they can't!" The video descends into cross-talk.