What is the Historical Record on Congressional Reconciliation?

Both Republicans and Democrats have used it. I understand the argument that the Health Care bill is the largest of its kind: 1/6 of the economy. But there is historical precedent to support the so-called “nuclear option.” Reconciliation has been used and has so in fairly similar ways, just not with such a big and important bill.

My only comment at this time, for a President and current Congress that promised to be the most “transparent” and “ethical” in history, it seems the difficult and more honorable path would be to buck the trend. To stand up and acknowledge minority rights and to honor the constitution, as has clearly not been done – that would have been what this administration promised.

Congress is broken and has been for some time. We The People must consider insisting that our politicians begin to honor the constitution. The Republicans have used this option to lower taxes and do things that Democrats cried foul over, just as Republicans are now doing. Both have been wrong. We need change, real change.

Here is a look at reconciliation’s controversial history:

Dec. 5, 1980 | Though reconciliation was established during the Ford administration as a means to keep spending in check, it went unused until the final days of the Carter presidency. As one of his last acts in office, President Jimmy Carter signed the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1980, designed to slim the budget deficit through revisions to a range of entitlement programs.

Aug. 13, 1981 | The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981, passed by a Republican Senate, cut $130 billion from several discretionary programs, including welfare and food stamps.

Sept. 3, 1982 | A Republican Senate approves the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which first opened Medicare to HMOs.

Sept. 8, 1982 | For the second time in less than a week, Congress uses reconciliation to pass a $13 billion bill amending the food stamp program, the federal employee pay program and farm subsidies.

April 18, 1984 | The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1983, approved by a Republican Senate, was a deficit-reduction measure that made changes to the annual cost-of-living adjustments to the retirement accounts of federal employees.

April 7, 1986 | A Republican Senate passes the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, otherwise known as COBRA. The act allows laid-off workers to keep their health care coverage.

Oct. 21, 1986 | The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 cuts $17 billion from the nation’s deficit through changes to Medicare and the sale of the government’s stake in the Consolidated Rail Corp.

Dec. 22, 1987 | Democrats, back in control of the Senate, pass the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 establishing federal standards for nursing homes under Medicare. The measure also expands Medicaid eligibility.

Dec. 19, 1989 | Democrats approve the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989, stripping $39 billion from the deficit while overhauling doctor payments for Medicare.

Nov. 5, 1990 | President George H.W. Bush signs a Democratic measure, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990; In addition to establishing pay-as-you-go rules for federal spending, the bill also implemented tax increases and added cancer screenings to Medicare.

Aug. 10, 1993 | Democrats, in control of Congress and the White House, pass the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1993. It cuts $504.8 billion from the budget while creating new tax rates for businesses and individuals and also establishing federal vaccine funding for children.

Dec. 6, 1995 | Republicans, back in control of Congress, pass the Balanced Budget Act of 1995 through reconciliation. President Clinton vetoes the measure.

Aug. 22, 1996 | President Clinton’s welfare reform bill is passed by a Republican-controlled Congress through reconciliation. The bill separates Medicaid from welfare for the first time.

Aug. 5, 1997 | Republicans use reconciliation to pass President Clinton’s Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Besides setting the U.S. on the path to a balanced budget, the bill created the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The same day, a tax-cutting measure is also passed through reconciliation.

Sept. 23, 1999 | President Clinton vetoes Republicans’ Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act of 1999.

Aug. 5, 2000 | Republicans in Congress pass the Marriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000, which President Clinton vetoes.

June 7, 2001 | A day after his party loses control of the Senate, President George W. Bush signs the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, his first major tax cut.

May 28, 2003 | President Bush, with Republicans back in control of Congress, signs the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Act of 2003, his second round of tax cuts.

Feb. 8, 2006 | After Republicans use reconciliation for the third time in his presidency, President Bush signs the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005; the bill cuts spending on Medicare and Medicaid.

May 17, 2006 | President Bush signs an extension of his earlier tax cuts approved by a Republican Congress in the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005.

Sept. 27, 2007 | Democrats, in control of Congress once again, use reconciliation to pass the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. President Bush signs the $20 billion reform of student aid.


* The Brookings Institution
* The Library of Congress’ THOMAS
* Congressional Research Service

My source

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6 Responses to What is the Historical Record on Congressional Reconciliation?

  1. Craig says:

    Chris I must say your best and most level headed post. As a Liberal myself I find Congress and the President to be outragous right now. Everything about Washington is broken. We need health care reform, just not like this.

  2. Mike says:

    Great post Chris, rare for you…..

  3. Alex says:

    The problem conservatives have with reconciliation is not that it has never been used, but that it has been only used in budgetary legislation. This list you have provided proves this. The Health Care bill is not a budgetary bill, no matter how much the DNC and Obama say it is.

    That is what is the problem with this “process.” In my opinion, moving this away from the budget to any legislation anyone sees fit, is a bad precedent.

    So is “deeming” it. So much for “ethical.”

  4. Chris says:

    Alex I understand your point. But it has been used and I consider it un-Constitutional and unethical and the Republicans have no credibility to challenge it as they have used it. What for and why makes no difference.

    Now, it is Saturday afternoon and it looks like it may not be used.

    Still, the Constitutionality of “making” all Americans have health care should and will be challenged. I do not like the government telling me I have to have health insurance. However, on the flip side, it is those people who flood emergency rooms and rack up huge unpaid bills that causes a problem. Additionally, how many of these ore illegal aliens? We need to turn them away as they do in their home countries. I was in Mexico and with someone who needed medical care. THEY REFUSED until a credit card and cash was procured.

    This Bill will be a disaster and the government take over of health care will mean higher premiums, higher taxes, a larger welfare state, and poorer service. My sister is a nurse at a major Chicago hospital and has expressed numerous concerns that they have. Doctors will leave or stop practicing.

    But alas, this Bill is not about health care, it is politics as usual.

    Last thought, the President said today in his pep talk to Democrats that the Health Care Bill was t he right thing to do because the American people want it…. yet then he tells them there will be/might be political fall out in terms of the 2010 elections….. DUH? How does that work? It’s want the people want so much yet they might vote out those who got this for us????? Where is the common sense?

    I want all of Congress gone, I want term limitations, limited benefits and salaries for elected officials, no more pork, shady deals, I am tired of it…..

    There, I’ll stop my rant.


  5. Joe says:

    Alex -
    That’s not entirely true. Reconciliation has been used for other things in the past.
    For Example:
    In 2005, Senate Republicans used reconciliation to approve a measure allowing oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The drilling provision was later stripped in the House, but reconciliation allowed Republicans to break a 20-year stalemate with a 51-49 vote.

  6. Chris says:

    Correction, the House is not going to use “Deem and Pass”, they are still going to use reconciliation….

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