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F. Andre Hollings: Reconciliation: A matter of what is right

Right Here, Right Now!

Posted: March 11, 2010 10:21 p.m.
Updated: March 12, 2010 4:55 a.m.
It has often been said that for any significant political undertaking of any stripe, you must have the support of the American people to get it accomplished.

Former Reagan-era Treasury Secretary James Baker said it like this: “ can’t get things done if you do not have the support of the American people. ... You have to — the final arbiter of policy in our democracy is the will of the American people. If you can’t bring them along, then you’re not going to be able to implement the policy very successfully. And to bring them along, you must have a significant national interest.”

President Barack Obama would do well to heed those words when it comes to health care reform.  

In the latest Rasmussen poll, 53 percent of Americans persist in disapproving of his unparalleled experiment at radically altering American medicine. Forty-two percent favor his endeavor. Those numbers include the 20 percent who strongly favor the plan and the 41 percent who strongly oppose it.

By any analysis, the verdict is clear: the American people have rejected liberalism’s decaffeinated “free-market” agenda for health care.  Yet, the left — and most notably the president — is stubbornly determined to force an unwelcome change upon us.  

That determination may have reached its frenetic peak with liberal talk of using the budget/fiscal process of reconciliation to strong-arm the already rejected agenda upon the American people. “Frenetic” is an apt word for describing the left’s last-ditch stab at permanently altering American medicine because employing reconciliation is the least rational — and least legal — endeavor for the health care debate, according to congressional rules.  

According to the Congressional Rules Committee, the reconciliation process is utilized when “Congress issues directives to legislate policy changes in mandatory spending (entitlements) or revenue programs (tax laws) to achieve the goals in spending and revenue contemplated by the budget resolution.”

Going further, reconciliation’s purpose is to serve as a constraint on “the levels of mandatory spending and federal tax revenues, which also has served since 1981 as a vehicle for deficit reduction.” The bottom line is that reconciliation is to be employed only for the purpose of controlling federal spending and revenue so the federal deficit is reduced.

Reconciliation is a wholly fiscal process only, that is not to be confused with social policy, even if the social policy is said to result in deficit reduction.  

As the Congressional Rules Committee states: “Whether for tax reduction, tax increases, deficit reduction, mandatory spending increases or decreases or adjustments in the public debt limit, this process has been used to focus many agents on one goal.” That one goal has never been the forced passage of any social policy the magnitude and cost that the left is pushing.  

Furthermore, reconciliation-related amendments “must be deficit neutral.” After already having brashly disregarded congressional mandates and tradition, can you imagine that this liberal Congress would halt that rebellion by offering amendments that are “deficit neutral” only?  “Deficit neutral” opposes the left’s excessive, free-spending ideology.  

Likewise, the committee has placed strict limits and mandates upon the “content of a reconciliation package.” Amendments must not only be completely necessary for deficit reduction but there may be no “extraneous material” added to reconciliation packages.

Section 313 of the Budget Act broadly defines “extraneous material” as any content not solely given to spending controls and deficit reduction.  

Opposing or favoring the health care reform proposals that Democrats are pushing is not the issue when it comes to reconciliation.

The essential issue is whether it is right by congressional mandates and tradition to force the matter of health care reform by
means of a reconciliation package. According to those mandates and tradition, it is not right.

Reconciliation is a budgetary process tool meant only for blatant fiscal policy. But for Democrats, doing what is right does not seem to matter.             

F. Andre Hollings is a Newhall resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Right Here, Right Now!” appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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