Reconciliation = health care reform

RECONCILIATION = HEALTH CARE REFORM…. About a month ago, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) conceded that “Republicans have in the past engaged in using reconciliation to further the party’s agenda,” and aren’t in a position to complain if Democrats choose to do the same. Yesterday, a leading House Republican said something similar.

In an interview with ABC News on Thursday … Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) went way off script, acknowledging that the mandate delivered by the election gives Democrats the “right” to push their policy proposals.

“It’s their right. They did win the election,” said Ryan, a respected member of House Republican leadership. “That’s what I tell all my constituents who are worried about this. They won the election. They did run on these ideas. They did run on nationalizing health care.”

The GOP repeatedly decried Democratic policies during the campaign as socialist and as wealth distribution. Yet voters chose them anyway.

A faction of congressional Democrats is pushing to use a budget process known as reconciliation to push through health care reform. Reconciliation means that only a simple majority is needed to pass the bill in the Senate, defanging any GOP filibuster threats.

“They have the votes with reconciliation,” said Ryan. “They nailed down the process so that they can make sure they have the votes and that they can get this thing through really fast. It is their right. It is what they can do.”

This, of course, isn’t even close to the usual Republican line. The typical argument is that Dems don’t have the “right” to pass key bills under reconciliation; only Republicans have that right.

What about the cost of annoying the congressional minority party by using the same legislative tactics they utilized? Igor Volsky makes a compelling case that it seems the reconciliation process is the only realistic way to get health care reform passed, precisely because the congressional minority has no interest in playing a constructive role in the process.

And Jonathan Cohn did a nice job yesterday explaining the larger dynamic: “It’s hard to overstate how radically the reconciliation option would shift the dynamics of debate. It’s not just that it would make passage of a bill more likely. It’s that it would utterly redefine the conversation.”