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Explanation: Reconciliation & Conference

November 18, 2009

THE BUDGET RECONCILIATION PROCESS

“The 1981 reconciliation bill, which encompassed legislative language from thirteen different committees in response to savings instructions mandated by the Senate, produced a legislative result that would have been impossible to achieve if each committee had reported an individual bill on subject matter solely within its own jurisdiction. By using a procedure that permitted packaging of the savings, Congress was able to consider President Reagan’s economic program as a whole, resistant to the type of special interest pressures that would have scuttled the savings if they had been proposed in piecemeal fashion.” – Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., then Senate Majority Leader (Winter, 1983)

The reconciliation process is an optional procedure and not a required action by Congress every fiscal year as is passage of the concurrent budget resolution. However, during the eighteen year period from 1980 to 1998 thirteen reconciliation measures have been enacted into law and numerous others have been considered by Congress.

Occasionally, reconciliation legislation has included certain enforcement mechanisms as extensions of the discretionary spending limits and PAYGO requirements or even reforms to the budget process. 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.

Conference Process: Once a reconciliation bill is passed in the House and Senate, members of each body meet to work out their differences. A majority of the conferees on each panel must agree on a single version of the bill before it can be brought back to the full House and Senate for a vote on final passage. Approval of the conference agreement on the reconciliation legislation must be by a majority vote of both Houses. In the House, the conference report is usually given a special rule from the Rules Committee to govern floor consideration. In the Senate, the floor debate is governed by Senate rules and specific provisions of the Budget Act. In contrast to the concurrent budget resolution, a reconciliation bill is sent to the President for approval or disapproval.

The intent of Conference committee is to reconcile differences in legislation that has passed both chambers. But when a bill goes into conference it is also when members sneak provisions into bills late at night and get them passed without any input from the opposition. This is yet another reason to vote legacy lawmakers out of Congress, and more proof of what crooks our elected officials are. The only way to stop government from growing is shutting it down. Since that won’t happen, vote your member out please.

Commentary:

In the halls of Congress reconciliation means bringing federal policy in line (reconciling it) with the budget. In practical terms, it enables parties to ram legislation through the Senate with a simple majority of 51, rather than the 60 votes usually needed to pass complex and controversial bills. Reconciliation is a fast-track legislative process to pass bills in a limited time period. A “normal” Senate bill can be slowed down by a single Senator, and blocked by 41 Senators. This is not true for a reconciliation bill.

Opinions on the subject depend on whether one is the party that is doing the reconciling, in which case the tactic is often seen as a legitimate and necessary means of lawmaking, or in the party that is being steamrolled, in which case it’s an outrage against democracy. It does fundamental damage to the constitutional structure and the balance of power. It eliminates deliberation. Under the rules of reconciliation, legislation that falls within the confines of the budget gets special treatment in the Senate: Debate is limited to just 20 hours. It cannot be amended easily, if at all.

And, most significantly, it cannot be blocked by filibuster — the minority’s biggest weapon, which Republicans employed to exact deep concessions on the economic stimulus package and threatened to use again. Harry Reid is stupid enough to try this. After all, as far as he is concerned the people who do not want this bill are evil mongers.

This is the Dem’s golden moment in the sun. They control both Congress and the White House. Regardless of the people’s rejection of ObamaCare, Dem’s will force it upon us. The bill will be written without regard to citizens’ rights, and without regard to traditional Congressional legislative protocol. It will include a wedge to enable subsequent further socialism. The vote will occur when opposition is not present – on a weekend at the dead of night. If they go with the ‘nuclear option’, it will set off a political nuclear reaction leading up to the 2010 mid-term elections.

But the difference with other attempts to force reconciliation and now is scope: Reconciliation has never been employed for something as sweeping as reforming the nation’s health care system. Reconciliation in the health care budget bill will be like a declaration of war. Dirty tricks and politics go hand in hand.

You can track all legislation in Congress at OpenCongress

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