"Young Guns" Go Nuclear With Bogus Process Complaints

September 13, 2010 2:18 pm ET

In addition to the predictable Republican distortions of health care policy, Young Guns reprises a series of disingenuous complaints about the process by which the Affordable Care Act became law.  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) condemns Senate Democrats for allegedly using reconciliation — which he falsely calls the "nuclear option" — to pass health care reform.  In reality, though, the bill passed with 60 votes under normal rules, and reconciliation was only used pass budgetary fixes that even Republicans claimed to support.  Furthermore, Republicans regularly employed reconciliation when they were in power, including for the deficit-busting Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

Claim: Democrats Used "Nuclear Option" To Pass Health Care Reform

Rep. Paul Ryan:

In the Senate, that meant employing what Progressivists and their friends in the mainstream media had called the "nuclear option" when Republicans considered it, but was now, in the gentle hands of Democrats, deemed a simple "up or down vote." This process, known as budget reconciliation, requires only a simple majority of fifty-one votes to pass a bill. It was created to align spending and tax laws with the levels spelled out in the budget. Over time, it came to be used mainly to reduce budget deficits or, more broadly, to limit the growth of government. [Young Guns, p 98]

Fact: Reconciliation Is NOT The "Nuclear Option"

"Nuclear Option" Refers To Proposal To Change Senate Rules. As The New Yorker reported in 2005, "some Republicans are pushing to alter the Senate's rules so that a simple majority could cut off debate on judicial nominees. With the Senate now split fifty-five to forty-four (with one independent) in favor of the Republicans, the change could render the Democrats almost powerless to stop Bush's choices, including nominees to the United States Supreme Court. The magnitude of this transformation of the rules is suggested by the nickname it has acquired within the Senate: the 'nuclear option.'" [The New Yorker, 3/7/05]

Fact: Democrats Passed The Affordable Care Act With 60 Votes

Health Insurance Reform Passed The Senate With A 60 Vote Majority.  According to the Washington Post, "Senate Democrats approved landmark legislation just after sunrise Christmas Eve that would transform the nation's health-care system by requiring people without insurance to obtain coverage and protecting those who have it from the most unpopular private insurance practices. Vice President Biden presided over the 60 to 39 party-line vote, described as a historic milestone by senators on both sides of the aisle. Despite the early hour, Democrats sat alert at their desks, exhausted but exuberant, savoring a victory that had eluded so many of their predecessors. 'This is probably the most important vote that every sitting member of the Senate will cast in their tenure here,' said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), one of the authors of the bill." [Washington Post, 12/25/10, emphasis added]

Reconciliation Only Used For Budgetary "Fixes" That Even Republicans Support.  During an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd explained the reconciliation process used for fixing the health care reform bill that had already passed:

CHUCK TODD: A little fact check on reconciliation - they're not trying to pass the entire health bill on reconciliation.

MATTHEWS: I think the Democrats are in good shape right now to get this thing through in a two-step. Get the House to pass the Senate bill and get through the Senate reconciliation. 

MATTHEWS: That's what he means.

TODD: However, that's how it's framed. Correct, that's what he— what's happened here is the Republicans are saying, they already tried to pass out the bill. They're going to pass health care through the Senate.

They're trying to do these fixes, which is— the irony is, it's all of the— most of the fixes, about half of them are the ones that Republicans have been complaining about with the cornhusker kickback. They're going to get rid that. They're going to do -


MATTHEWS: Jim Clyburn just said they're going to get rid of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We're on the record. The great thing about tonight's show is we're getting the facts out here. The facts are they're not going to use reconciliation to pass health care.


They're going to pass the Senate bill in the House and then, right around the same time, they're going to pass the fixed bill with reconciliation which is basically dealing with the fiscal numbers, which is an appropriate way to use reconciliation.

TODD: The parliamentarian is going to have an easy time with that one.

[MSNBC, 3/25/10 via YouTube]

Fact: Republicans Used Reconciliation To Pass The Budget-Busting Bush Tax Cuts

Republicans Used Reconciliation To Pass Tax Cuts In 2001.  The Senate passed the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 by a vote of 58-33. [H.R. 1836, Vote #170, 5/26/01]

Republicans Used Reconciliation To Pass Tax Cuts In 2003.  In 2003, the Senate passed the Jobs Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 by a vote of 50-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney breaking the tie.  [H.R. 2, Vote #196, 5/23/03]

CBPP: "Tax Cuts Have Been The Single Largest Contributor To The Reemergence Of Substantial Budget Deficits In Recent Years." According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "Congressional Budget Office data show that the tax cuts have been the single largest contributor to the reemergence of substantial budget deficits in recent years.  Legislation enacted since 2001 added about $3.0 trillion to deficits between 2001 and 2007, with nearly half of this deterioration in the budget due to the tax cuts (about a third was due to increases in security spending, and about a sixth to increases in domestic spending)." [CBPP, accessed 1/31/10]

The Bush Tax Cuts Are The Primary Driver Of Federal Budget Deficits Over The Next Decade. Below is a chart from CBPP showing the deficit impacts of war spending, financial recovery spending, the recession itself, and the Bush tax cuts:

[CBPP.org, 6/28/10]

Claim: Speaker Pelosi Said "We Have To Pass The Bill So That You Can Find Out What's In It"

Rep. Paul Ryan:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it all when she said, in the final days of the debate, "But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."

Let me say that again: the Democratic leader in the House was telling the American people that they would pass the bill first, and we could ask questions later. [Young Guns, p 98]

Fact: The Speaker's Quote Was Taken Out Of Context

As Political Correction previously explained, conservatives attempted to manufacture controversy by cutting Pelosi's comments short and taking them out of context.

Speaker Pelosi Said That After Passage Americans Would Learn What Was In The Bill "Away From The Fog Of Controversy" Created By Republican Misinformation.  During her address to the 2010 Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said:

You've heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other items.  But I don't know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket.  Prevention, prevention, prevention— it's about diet, not diabetes. It's going to be very, very exciting. 

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy. [Speaker.gov, 3/9/10, emphasis added]