Chutzpah watch — reconciliation edition

CHUTZPAH WATCH — RECONCILIATION EDITION…. In March 2005, Senate Republicans really wanted to let oil companies drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Democrats not only opposed the bill, they told the GOP majority that it would need 60 votes to pass the drilling proposal.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire said the ANWR issue should be considered under reconciliation. “The point, of course, is this: If you have 51 votes for your position, you win,” Gregg told his Senate colleagues on the floor.

He added, “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.” Responding to the argument that it’s wrong to use reconciliation on a domestic oil drilling measure, Gregg concluded, “We are using the rules of the Senate as they are set up to be used, and that happens to be the rule of the Senate.”

And now that health care reform may be considered under reconciliation, who’ll lead the charge against it? The same Republican senator who demanded that majority rule be honored in the Senate.

Sen. Judd Gregg has hundreds of procedural objections ready for a healthcare plan Democrats leaders want to speed through the Senate.

Gregg (N.H.), the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, told the Hill in a recent interview that Republicans will wage a vicious fight if Democrats try to circumvent Senate rules and use a budget maneuver to pass a trillion dollar healthcare plan with a simple majority. […]

Gregg said that Republicans could file “hundreds” of points of order objections to the bill, each one requiring 60 votes to waive.

“We are very much engaged in taking a hard look at our rights under reconciliation,” Gregg said.

It’s tempting to think the Senate Republican caucus would pick someone to lead the fight who’d be slightly less embarrassing, but I’m quite certain they don’t care.

In light of Gregg’s new found interest in the rights of the Senate minority, it’s worth reemphasizing that 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.

But now Gregg wants to take “a hard look at our rights under reconciliation.” Of course he does.

To reiterate a point from the weekend, I can appreciate the fact that the reconciliation process was not intended to be used this way. But the filibuster rule was not intended to be used this way, either. The idea that a bill that enjoys majority support in the House and majority support in the Senate is not allowed to pass is fundamentally at odds with the American political process, and yet, it’s quietly become both accepted and routine.

Health care reform deserves a vote. If most senators oppose it, the bill will fail. If most senators support it, the bill should advance. Gregg was right the first time.