Paul Ryan and Donald TRump

In February 2010, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally got around to using the budget reconciliation process to ram home passage of the Affordable Care Act, I noted that he should have done it in April 2009 and included a public option. A lot of time and drama was wasted trying to pass health care reform as an “inclusive process,” when all that really happened was delay that allowed a Tea Party revolt to form. Too many cooks in the kitchen and too many corporate Democrats worrying about the fee-fees of their financial benefactors resulted in a near death experience for a watered down bill. In the end, though, budget reconciliation was the only way to get Obamacare done. It was also the only way that George W. Bush was able to pass his massive budget-busting tax cuts.

The process is complicated but it allows the Senate to bypass the filibuster. There are limitations, though. All the provisions of the bill must have clear budgetary implications or it will be ruled out of order by the parliamentarian, and the legislation cannot increase the deficit past a ten-year window (thus, the sunset of Bush’s tax cuts). And you can’t amend the bill unless the other chamber amends it in a completely identical way, which in effect means that amendments cannot be allowed. In the end, the Senate had to pass the House health care bill because there was no way to reconcile the two bills in the budget reconciliation process.

Of course, the Democrats howled in agony when Bush crammed his tax cuts down their throats and the Republicans tossed aside all their justifications for that process when the Democrats used the same one for health care.

But if using budget reconciliation to pass Obamacare was the worst tyranny ever, that’s not preventing Paul Ryan from promising to use the same process to pass his granny-starving agenda through Congress so he can place it on President Donald Trump’s desk.

At a recent news conference, as reported by Politico, Ryan said that he planned to use the process known as budget reconciliation to implement his policy agenda, which he has dubbed “A Better Way.” That would mean Republicans could pass their priorities without Democratic members of Congress being able to block them.

“This is our plan for 2017,” he said, showing off a copy of the agenda. “Much of this you can do through budget reconciliation… This is our game plan for 2017.”

Of course, Ryan would need a Republican Senate. And he’d need to keep his gavel as Speaker of the House. You heard it hear first, but there’s increasing chatter that Ryan is not going to be Speaker next year.

That chatter assumes that Clinton will be elected president and the Republicans will retain a smaller majority in the House, but it’s perhaps even less likely that Ryan would survive as Speaker if Trump is the one who replaces Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Trump lives for revenge and his Breitbart campaign manager has been calling for Ryan’s head for a year now. They will not want to work with him, let alone pass his “globalist” agenda.

If Clinton wins the presidency but the Republicans retain control of the Senate and the House, and if Ryan keep’s his gavel, he can use the budget reconciliation process to put bills on Clinton’s desk, but she can just veto those bills.

So, basically, when Paul Ryan holds a news conference and explains how he’s going to pass his agenda, he’s living in a delusional alternate universe.

Of course, there are parts of Ryan’s plan that will be amendable to Trump if Ryan isn’t the one pushing them.

The tax plan Ryan put forward in June would lower the corporate tax rate, lower rates for the wealthy, and repeal the estate tax. An analysis of the plan found that 99.6 percent of its benefits would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, leaving just 0.4 percent for everyone else. It would also cost the government $3.1 trillion over a decade.

They could also pass their proposals for Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, and rental assistance. Ryan recently proposed instituting strict work requirements for food stamps and housing assistance that could mean throwing people off the rolls if they can’t fulfill the new conditions. His recent agenda includes block-granting Medicaid, which would cut the program by billions and leave tens of millions of people uninsured, and replacing the current guarantee of health care coverage under Medicare with a voucher to purchase private health insurance.

They could also bypass the filibuster with the budget reconciliation process to gut Obamacare.

So, while Ryan and Trump won’t be forming a team to ram this down the throats of Democrats, and Trump is less interested in whacking Medicare than Ryan, it’s still likely that budget reconciliation will be a huge role if we wake up next Wednesday and discover that the Republicans will be controlling the White House, the House, and the Senate.

All that Republican crying about budget reconciliation being unconstitutional? All the Tea Party talk about debt and deficits? Those will be gone as quick as their belief in global warming.

And that’s before Trump asks for increased infrastructure and defense spending.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at