Reconsidering reconciliation

RECONSIDERING RECONCILIATION…. Here was Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) in 2005, when he wanted to use reconciliation to allow ANWR drilling.

“The point, of course, is this: If you have 51 votes for your position, you win…. 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.”

And here was Judd Gregg in March 2009, on the prospect of Democrats using reconciliation to advance its policy agenda:

“That would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through….You’re talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.”

A year later, Gregg was outraged by the very idea of using reconciliation on health care policy, because the legislative tactic shouldn’t be used on “substantive” matters.

But Gregg isn’t above executing the rarely-seen flip-flop-flip, in which he supports reconciliation, then opposes it, then supports it again. This week on CNBC, Gregg was asked whether reconciliation could be used to “roll back some of the unpopular Obama policies.” The senator replied:

“Absolutely. Reconciliation passes the Senate with 51 votes and it can adjust entitlement programs so they’re affordable.”

Keep three things in mind here. First, just this year, Gregg said reconciliation shouldn’t be used to make major, “substantive” changes. Now he’s prepared to use the tactic on entitlements.

Second, the whole point of reconciliation is supposed to be about improving the budget outlook. In context, Gregg is now talking about using the tactic to make the deficit much bigger.

And third, it’s a reminder as to why Democrats seem to lose arguments so often — they care about intellectual seriousness and consistency. Their rivals do not.