Romney Shows Republicans How Not to Fret the Filibuster

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 12 2011 10:59 AM

Romney Shows Republicans How Not to Fret the Filibuster

While everybody else was getting distracted by 9-9-9, Mitt Romney used one of his health care answers to say something important.

We have to repeal Obamacare, and I will do that on day two, with the reconciliation bill, because as you know, it was passed by reconciliation, 51 votes. We can get rid of it with 51 votes.
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What is Romney referring to? If you've managed to scrub the excruciating 2009-2010 health care fight from your brain, I will recap: The health care bill that passed was the product of a year of negotiation followed by an emergency measure. A health care bill passed the House in November 2009. A weaker health care bill (no public option) passed in December 2010, with the Democrats' brief 60-seat majority breaking a Republican filibuster. And then Scott Brown won in Massachusetts. In normal circumstances (or what passes for them), Democrats would have started conferencing the House and Senate bills, coming up with something that would have to break another GOP filibuster. With no chance of doing that, they compromised: House Democrats passed a version of the Senate bill. Senate Democrats, having already voted on most of the bill, held a vote on the changes, which passed through reconciliation -- a process that allows changes to the budget on simple majority rule votes. No longer needing 60 votes, Democrats passed the changes 56-43.

Romney is embracing an idea a lot of people first heard from Keith Hennessey back in February. Take back the Senate in 2012. Hold a reconciliation vote. Undo all of Obamacare that you can.

Reconciliation is a procedural tool primarily used to change spending and revenues, deficits and debt.  Repeal of the subsidies, the individual mandate, the insurance provisions, and the Medicaid expansions would, in each case, directly affect spending and revenues, so it would be a straight-up-the-middle use of reconciliation for deficit reduction.  Democrats who argued in 2009 that it was OK to use reconciliation to create these provisions would find those same rulings working against them in 2013.  A few minor odds and ends could not be repealed in reconciliation.  That is strategically unimportant.

This is now the policy of the likely Republican nominee.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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