MCCAIN FORGETS THAT THE GROUNDWORK HAS BEEN LAID…. Yesterday, John McCain told a town-hall gathering in Arizona — and viewers of CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, which collectively aired road-block coverage — about his fears of reconciliation. The conservative senator said he’s “unalterably opposed” to health care reform passing under reconciliation, calling it a “drastic change.”

Faiz Shakir flagged this clip of Fox News’ Shep Smith who noted that Republicans used reconciliation many times when they were in the majority. Smith read a Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) quote from 2005: “Reconciliation is a rule of the Senate (that) has been used before for purposes exactly like this on numerous occasions… Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so… The point, of course, is this: If you have 51 votes for your position, you win.”

Smith added if the Senate Democratic majority decided to pursue reform under reconciliation, “they could do that.”

I would just add that while McCain is “unalterably opposed” this “drastic change,” he said something very different in March. Speaking at a conservative think tank, McCain acknowledged Republicans’ use of reconciliation, and conceded it might come back to haunt them now.

“I fully recognize that Republicans have in the past engaged in using reconciliation to further the party’s agenda,” McCain said. “I wish it had not been done then, and I hope it will not be done now that the groundwork has been laid.”

Reconciliation has been applied to everything from health insurance portability (COBRA) to nursing home standards, Medicaid eligibility to the EITC, welfare reform to S-CHIP, tax cuts to student loans. When the Senate parliamentarian disagreed with Republicans’ use of reconciliation, the GOP caucus fired him. When another parliamentarian got in the way, he was fired, too.

With the Senate Democratic caucus now at 59 seats — a total that will likely remain unchanged until mid-January — Republicans shouldn’t be too surprised to see the new majority walking through the door the old majority opened.

Update: Last night, McCain was on Fox News and said use of reconciliation would set a “terrible precedent” that would “blow up” the Senate. He added, “I think it would fundamentally change the way the institution functions.”

Funny, McCain didn’t feel that way at all in March — or when he was in the majority.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.