SUNUNU NEEDS A HISTORY LESSON…. Former Sen. John Sununu (R) of New Hampshire, who lost last year after one term in the chamber, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, complaining about the possibility of passing health care reform through the reconciliation process. It’s filled with errors of fact and judgment, but one mistake is especially jarring.
Sununu mostly relies on predictable canards. For example, if the Senate approves a bill without giving the minority a chance to filibuster it represents an “attempt to circumvent the normal and customary workings of American democracy.” Since the “normal and customary workings of American democracy” dictate that a Senate majority should be allowed to pass legislation without a mandated super-majority, I’m afraid Sununu has it backwards.
He added that the budget reconciliation process “was never intended to push through dramatic and expansive new programs.” That’s debatable, but I couldn’t help but notice that Sununu didn’t protest when his Republican colleagues pushed through welfare reform using the same process.
But here’s the real problem:
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton governed effectively by coupling the vision of an outsider with irrepressible self-confidence. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon used the depth of their insider knowledge to coax the Congress into moving their policies forward. Barack Obama brings neither of these traits to the Oval Office. Misusing reconciliation … shows a lack of confidence in his own ability to pass an agenda using the regular legislative order.
And here’s where Sununu proves he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Did Johnson and Nixon rely on reconciliation to pass key bills? No. Why? Because the reconciliation process didn’t exist at the time.
Did Reagan and Clinton rely on reconciliation to pass key bills? No. Why? Because they didn’t have to deal with an obstructionist minority that filibustered literally every bill of consequence.
Sununu thinks Obama lacks “confidence” in his ability to pass his agenda without reconciliation. Of course he does. Obama is dealing with a dynamic no president has ever had to endure — a Senate minority that requires super-majorities on practically every vote. The bigger question is why Sununu thinks the president should have confidence.
Sununu wants to see reconciliation used less often? Sounds great — just as soon as Republicans allow democratic norms to return to the Senate, and the minority stops using filibusters for every significant vote, I suspect the reconciliation practice will suddenly disappear.
Call it a hunch.