There’s no need to ‘change the rules’

THERE’S NO NEED TO ‘CHANGE THE RULES’…. It recently became clear that the Senate’s reconciliation process may play a role in health care reform. And the moment it did, word apparently went out to the media that reconciliation is something radical, abusive, and dangerous.

While Republicans and political reporters started labeling reconciliation the “nuclear option” this week, Fox News went just a little further yesterday.

Fox News anchor Jamie Colby falsely characterized Senate Democrats passing health care reform legislation with a simple majority through a process known as reconciliation as “potentially changing the rules with the nuclear option.”

Yes, if senators follow Senate rules, they’re now changing Senate rules.

Labeling reconciliation the “nuclear option” is itself ridiculous, but to argue to a national television audience that using the process would be “changing the rules” is insane.

This would be a perfectly fair description of the actual “nuclear option.” In 2005, Senate Republicans, outraged by Democratic efforts to block some of Bush’s far-right judicial nominees, came up with a scheme to change the rules in the middle of the game. The Senate can change its rules with 67 votes, but Trent Lott & Co. thought they’d try it with 51 votes. Senate Dems, at the time, threatened all-out political war over this, which is why Lott referred to his underhanded scheme as the “nuclear option.” (It was never executed, and the Gang of 14 struck a deal that let conservative judicial nominees get confirmed.)

Reconciliation, in contrast, is part of the existing Senate rules. No one’s talking about changing anything — just following the process that’s already in place. It’s a process that Republicans have used and endorsed many times.

Nevertheless, the “nuclear option” nonsense is catching on. In addition to just about every Fox News personality with access to a microphone, it’s being used on CNN, and yesterday, MSNBC.

The right can’t govern, but when it comes to message dissemination, they’re Propagandists Extraordinaire.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation