Today’s Heritage Foundation “Morning Bell,” its daily conservative talking-points memo, contains says this blunt statement about the process that the Obama administration wants to use to pass a health care reform bill through Congress: “Never has reconciliation been used to pass any bill on purely partisan lines.”
Heritage should never have written that line without reviewing this take-down of that conservative propaganda line—which was part of an op-ed piece written by Sen. Orrin Hatch in The Washington Post—by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on her show Tuesday night:
You could hardly get more “purely partisan” than the December 21, 2005 Senate vote on the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which required the intervention of Vice President Dick Cheney to break a 50-50 tie in which all but four Republicans, but no Democrats, voted in favor of the bill. The House vote was almost equally partisan: the 212 votes in favor were all Republican; all the Democrats were opposed and were joined by nine Democratic defectors. Similarly, the May 23, 2003 tax-cut legislation vote came down to a 50-50 tie in the Senate that Cheney had to break, with two Democrats crossing over to join the “yes” side with the Republicans and two Republicans defecting to join the Democrats in voting “no.” The House votes on that legislation were about equally partisan.
The 2003 and 2005 budget reconciliation bills were particularly stark examples of Republicans muscling through major legislation with no more than token support, if any, from Democrats. It is true that the other major reconciliation bills that have gone through Congress since 2000 passed with somewhat wider margins with a handful of Democrats supporting the Republicans. But it is never correct to say that “never” has reconciliation been used by Republicans on legislation that faced virtually unanimous opposition by the Democrats.