Reasons to Risk Reconciliation

Perhaps not as politically dangerous as it seems

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Kathryn Jean Lopez pithily sums up the prevailing wisdom about using reconciliation to pass health care reform: it's the "the-vote-yourself-out-of-Congress approach." The risks for the Democrats are obvious. They may appear to be ramming the legislation down representatives' and voters' throats, bypassing normal democratic Congressional processes. But some believe the risks of reconciliation are overstated.

  • Not Finding the Anti-Reconciliation Arguments Convincing  Dan Amira of New York Magazine explains the Republican view that passing health care "would betray the very purpose of the hallowed institution by bypassing the minority party's ability to filibuster." What they leave out, he writes, is that "Republicans have used the reconciliation process many times before--more than Democrats, in fact--and for legislation as vast and consequential as the trillion-dollar Bush tax cuts and welfare reform." This is one of the more common liberal counterarguments.
  • Maybe It Will Actually Help in Elections  Princeton history professor Julian Zelizer (who calls the reconciliation process at least as democratic as the filibuster) acknowledges that there is a risk: "If the Democratic leadership wants to use this tactic, they have to convince enough members of their own party that this won't scare off independent voters." To make reconciliation work, "the leadership must be proactive in responding to the criticism about reconciliation." On the upside, though, "right now, Democrats are receiving the brunt of Republican attacks without being able to pass much legislation. If they pass health care, they will be able to respond to the arguments of the GOP." In other words, there may be just as many risks in not using the reconciliation process. If Democrats don't pass health care reform, "one thing is for certain: [they] will go into election day facing voters who are hearing all the complaints about their party but seeing very little in terms of what they can deliver on health care."
  • Maybe Elections Aren't All That's at Stake, suggest Andy McCarthy and Mark Steyn at the conservative National Review. They think the Democrats are making a highly rational, temporary sacrifice to further their agenda--albeit a misguided or downright evil agenda, depending on your perspective. Here's what will happen, predicts Steyn: "The Dems will be punished; the Republicans will take over the committee chairmanships and be content, as they often are, to be in office rather than in power; and after a brief time out the Democrats will return to find their new statist behemoth still in place."
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