Remember in 2010, when the Democrats ensured that the Affordable Care Act would clear its final hurdle to passage this way?
Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.The move would allow Democrats to essentially go it alone on health reform, especially after losing their fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate after Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts.
Republicans have protested the maneuver as a hyperpartisan tactic to ram through a health bill, and have said that plans to use the reconciliation process make moot a bipartisan summit at the White House this week, where both GOP and Democratic leaders are supposed to present their ideas on healthcare.
At the time, Republicans, as is their wont, over-stated their objections to the maneuver, calling it unconstitutional and a breach of rules. No, it wasn’t quite that, nor was it as unusual as the GOP claimed. It was within Senate rules, but still the first time it was ever used to amend a bill that had already passed the Senate via cloture, and under such contentious circumstances. Reconciliation was legal, all right, but since the Affordable Care Act was so revolutionary and controversial, its passage needed to be seen as democratic, and it wasn’t. Democrats ignored the Golden Rule, and extended the acceptable use of reconciliation by using a number of rationalizations, as well as “the ends justify the means.”
Let’s see: “Everybody Does It” wouldn’t work, because the problem with using reconciliation was that everybody didn’t do it, at least not very often. So Democrats opted for 13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”…23. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”…#24. Juror 3’s Stand (“It’s My Right!”)…25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”…28. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”…31. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now” …40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”…59. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”…and perhaps a few other rationalizations on the list.
Republicans, however, felt that they and the process had been abused, and much of the public, a majority of which opposed the bill, felt likewise. The steamroller methods of the Democrats created deep resentment, launched the tea party, and greatly exacerbated what was already a dangerous partisan polarization in the nation.
All of this might have subsided, if so many of the flaws in the Affordable Care Act pointed out by its critics hadn’t been lurking exactly as they predicted. It might not have mattered so much if it hadn’t turned out that President Obama’s promise that we could keep our health plans if we liked our health plans hadn’t been a lie, or if the architect of the law, Jonathan Gruber, hadn’t publicly gloated about how the bill’s advocates fooled gullible citizens, or if the law hadn’t resulted in massive premium increases for anyone who wasn’t eligible for a subsidy. Moral luck might have saved the law and the Democrats from the consequences of pulling an obnoxious and divisive powerplay, if the law worked, as Democrats gambled it would when they passed it without reading it.
But it didn’t.
Now cut to today..from Vox:
The new Congress was sworn in on Tuesday, and the first thing it did was prepare to repeal Obamacare.
Senate Budget Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-WY) introduced a budget resolution Tuesday that includes “reconciliation instructions” that enable Congress to repeal Obamacare with a simple Senate majority. Passing a budget resolution that includes those instructions will mean that the legislation can pass through the budget reconciliation process, in which bills cannot be filibustered.
That means Republicans will only need 50 of their 52 members in the Senate, and a bare majority in the House, to pass legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act. According to the Wall Street Journal, the budget resolution could be passed by both houses as early as next week.
Democrats set the precedent for this in 2009; they cannot credibly whine now (not that they won’t.) Of course, an ethical political party, which the Republicans are not, any more than their counterparts, could, and indeed should, say,
“Now we could kill Obamacare undemocratically, and use the same reconciliation device that you Democrats used, knowing that it was no way to pass such a controversial, complex and risky bill that the public neither understood nor wanted. But we won’t do that. In the interest of comity, and public trust, we’ll restore the restraint and mutual respect that served this body so well, and invite our colleagues to join with us and address the problems with the law, openly, democratically, and with full debate.
And if you don’t cooperate, then we’ll do to you what you did to us.”
Nah. The GOP has plenty of rationalizations at its disposal now, and is going to use them: 2. Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad”, 2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming”,7. The “Tit for Tat” Excuse, Rationalization 8A. The Dead Horse-Beater’s Dodge, or “This can’t make things any worse”, 14. Self-validating Virtue, and 17. Ethical Vigilantism.
Next up will be Democratic regret for the party’s maneuver in 2013, when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other top Democrats, convinced that GOP delaying tactics were crippling Washington, triggered the so-called “nuclear option” which lowered the threshold to overcome a filibuster from 60 to 51 votes.
Indeed, that regret has arrived. Democratic minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer was lamenting that decision today on CNN. “I argued against it at the time. I said both for Supreme Court and in Cabinet should be 60 because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship,” Schumer, a New York Democrat and the incoming Senate minority leader, told CNN’s Dana Bash. “I won on Supreme Court, lost on Cabinet. But it’s what we have to live with now. Wish it hadn’t happened.”
I’ll bet you do, Chuck. But when you ignore the Golden Rule, you can’t be surprised when your opposition decides that it’s been waived. In fact, there is another rationalization the Republicans can use, thanks to your party:
36. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”