In an interview with Roll Call, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the case for reforming the Senate rules and using reconciliation.
"A constitutional majority is 51
votes," Pelosi said in an interview Tuesday with Roll Call. "If in fact
the Republicans are going to say nothing can be done except by 60
percent, then maybe we all should be elected with 60 percent. It isn't
legitimate in terms of passing legislation."
On this point, Pelosi is completely right. A 3/5 threshold in the
Senate appears nowhere in the Constitution, and super-majority
requirements for every action in the Senate makes a mockery of the idea
of democracy. If a popularly elected majority is unable perform even
the most basic functions of governing, are you even a Democracy any
In her interview with Roll Call, Pelosi
stopped short of saying the filibuster should be done away with
altogether, but she used some of her bluntest language yet to defend
the use of reconciliation as something that has been used with
regularity by Republican and Democratic presidents alike.
"We have set the stage for that. It's important for us to remind the
American people of the inconsistency that the Republicans have in
saying this is unusual. No, five times President Bush used it. ... This
is what the Republicans did to pass their bills, their tax cuts for the
rich," Pelosi said.
After the loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat, it appears the only path forward for health care reform is through use of reconciliation,
either with a new reconciliation bill or a reconciliation fix to the
current Senate bill. If Democrats want to pass health care reform, they
are going to need to follow Pelosi's lead by defending the use of
reconciliation. It was a serious mistake for Democrats to spend months
downplaying the option. Pointing out that Republicans have repeatedly
used reconciliation is a good talking point, but explaining
reconciliation to the American people is going to be difficult. Most
people don't even know this 60-vote threshold even exists in the Senate.
It would seem the smarter way to sell using reconciliation is to
sell what is in the reconciliation measure, and not defending the
procedure by talking about its history. If it looks like Democrats are
using reconciliation to add very popular ideas like a public option,
Medicare buy-in, drug re-importation, eliminating the excise tax, then
I don't think the American people will care about the process used to
enact them. On the other hand, if Democrats try to use reconciliation
to move very unpopular things, like more special deals and carve outs
for special interests, it will be very bad politically for Democrats.