Senator Mike Johanns today issued a statement opposing the use of reconciliation to pass health care reform.
"I sincerely hope that Majority Leader Reid and Senate Democrats will not cave to pressure from liberal interest groups and force health care legislation through reconciliation," Johanns said. "Last year, Senator Byrd and I led a bipartisan letter from 31 other Senators, including 8 Democrats, opposing the use of budget reconciliation because it would have prevented an open, public discussion of the far reaching effects of cap and trade. Health care reform is no different; impacting 1/6th of our economy, it should not be rammed through. As I've said from the beginning, we must have an open debate and not rush this legislation. Several Senators from both sides of the aisle have spoken out against using reconciliation, and I urge the Administration and Democrats in the Senate to take leadership and do the same thing."
Reconciliation is a fiscal policy tool allowing only a simple majority to pass legislation with limited debate, circumventing normal Senate rules and procedure.
With health care reform stagnating, Senate Democrats are coming under pressure from liberal interest groups to use this maneuver to pass their plan, thwarting the will of the American public.
In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton wanted to use reconciliation to pass his health care reform plan, but Democrat Senator Robert Byrd warned, "No. It is a violation of the process. We will regret it. It will be misused later on."
Eight Democrats signed Sen. Johanns' letter opposing the use of reconciliation to pass cap and trade in March 2009, including: Sens. Robert Byrd (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Robert Casey (D-PA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Pryor (D-AR).
Thus far, only Senate Democrats have spoken out against using reconciliation to pass health care reform: Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Ben Nelson (D-NE).