FLASHBACK: GOP Fired Parliamentarian Who Objected To Their Use Of Reconciliation

March 03, 2010 12:07 pm ET

Congressional Republicans are stepping up their efforts to portray the reconciliation process as an unprecedented threat to minority rights. However, as Democrats push forward with health care reform, it's important to remember that Republicans not only used reconciliation when they were in power, but actually took the extreme step of firing the Senate parliamentarian who objected to their use of the procedure.

Senate Republicans Fired Parliamentarian Robert Dove

"Republican Leaders Were Upset" When Dove Ruled That A Budget Provision Would Require 60 Votes.  The Associated Press reported:

The Senate parliamentarian is losing his job after angering Republican leaders with several recent rulings concerning budget and tax cut legislation, a Senate GOP aide said Monday. 

The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Robert Dove has been given his notice and the GOP leadership will appoint a new parliamentarian in the next few months. [...]

The aide said Republican leaders were upset when Dove told them that a 2002 budget provision setting aside more than $5 billion for natural disasters would have required a 60-vote majority. With the Senate divided 50-50 between the two parties, such a majority would have been almost impossible for Republicans to muster." [Associated Press via Nexis, 5/7/01; emphasis added]

Parliamentarian Was "Asked To Leave" After His Rulings "Angered Republicans" According to the Washington Post

Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove, the official responsible for enforcing the chamber's rules and procedures, has been asked to leave his post after a dispute with the Republican leadership, Senate sources said yesterday.

Dove angered Republicans, especially Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), with at least two recent rulings that effectively made it harder for the GOP to push President Bush's budget and tax cut proposals through the evenly divided body. [...]

The GOP's unhappiness came to a head during the tax and budget debate. Typically, Senate bills can be filibustered -- a parliamentary stalling tactic -- until supporters can assemble 60 votes. But Senate rules allow passage of certain budget measures by a simple majority, and Republicans want to apply those rules to a series of tax votes. [Washington Post via Nexis, 5/8/01]

Dove Was Fired Even After He Ruled That Reconciliation Could Be Used For Tax Cuts. As reported by the New York Times:

Republican leaders decided last week to dismiss the Senate's parliamentarian, Robert B. Dove, because of their frustration over his recent rulings on tax and budget matters, a top leadership staff assistant said today. [...]

One of Mr. Dove's recent rulings was that only one tax bill could be considered this year under special budget rules that prevent filibusters. The final straw apparently came last week when Mr. Dove determined that a Republican plan to set aside more than $5 billion in next year's budget to cover expenses related to natural disasters could be removed from the budget unless Republicans could muster 60 votes to keep it.

Those decisions frustrated Republicans. Earlier this year, he delighted Republicans and infuriated Democrats in declaring that a tax cut could be considered under procedures that prevent filibusters on measures that reduced budget deficits. [New York Times, 5/7/01]