As Senate Majority Shifts, So Does View of a Procedural Power Play by Jackie Calmes
WASHINGTON -- It is tempting to think that the authors of the 1974 federal budget law were feeling mischievously ironic when they chose "reconciliation" as the name for a particularly arcane process the bill established. ...
But even as they fulminate about the unfairness, Republicans carry a long record of having employed reconciliation themselves on big and controversial legislative packages.
Sixteen of the 22 "reconciliation bills" that have made it through Congress were passed in the Senate when Republicans had majorities. Among them were the signature tax cuts of President George W. Bush, the 1996 overhaul of the welfare system, the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage insurance policies and the Cobra program allowing people who leave a job to pay to keep the health coverage their employer provided (the "R" and "A" in Cobra stand for "reconciliation act").
... In 1980 a Democratic majority used it for the first time to reduce that year’s deficit. Months later, however, it was the new administration and a new Republican Senate majority that pioneered using reconciliation to enact major legislation: a package of spending cuts to offset President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts.
Republicans turned to reconciliation again the next year, 1982, but to pass a controversial measure rolling back some of the tax cuts and cutting spending to pare a growing deficit.
For years, reconciliation mainly was used to shrink deficits. But in 1999 and 2000, with budgets running rare surpluses, Congressional Republicans sent tax cut bills to President Clinton. He vetoed them, citing his vow to "save Social Security first."
Once Mr. Bush took office in 2001, however, Republicans successfully used the tactic to enact the much bigger tax cuts he had campaigned on. With the Senate bill lacking 60 votes, reconciliation was "the way it will have to be done in order to get it done at all," Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said at the time.