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Democrats Prepare Nuclear Option for ObamaCare

By March 1, 2010

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is interviewed for ABC's 'This Week' on Feb. 26, 2010 in Washington, D.C. for a Feb. 28 broadcast.

Fasten your seat belts.

Despite their hedging at Obama's Health Care "Summit," it appears Democrats are gearing up to go nuclear with ObamaCare; that is, pass the president's health care reform measure using the federal budget reconciliation process, which lowers the approval threshold from the constitutionally-required two-thirds majority to a simple majority of 51 percent. If "nuclear" sounds a little melodramatic, consider this: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging fellow Democrats to pass the president's health care bill no matter what -- even if it costs them their jobs.

Which is easy for Pelosi to say, of course. Despite the loyal opposition she'll face from Republican businessman John Dennis in the 2010 midterm election, her seat is safe. It's easy to be fearless when you have nothing to lose.

For those wondering why health care is at the forefront of the president's agenda -- as opposed to jobs -- Pelosi had the answer on ABC's "This Week," which aired Sunday:

And by the way, the health care bill is a jobs bill. It will create four million new jobs, several hundred thousand immediately upon enactment. And it will also encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in our country where people can take risks and be entrepreneurial because they know they have health care.

But it's hard to take Pelosi's comments about the health care bill seriously (as it pertains to job creation). After all, she said the climate summit in Copenhagen was really about jobs, too. Just like the jobs summit on Dec. 1. After that summit, Pelosi said Democrats likely will be judged on whether they can deliver what she called, "jobs, jobs, jobs."

For those keeping score, it's fairly apparent that Copenhagen and the jobs summit have both struck out. January unemployment numbers rose 26 percent between 2009 and 2010, and the 3 percent dip in unemployment claims between December and January have been largely in spite of Democrats' efforts, not because of them.

I don't doubt for a minute that Pelosi and President Barack Obama genuinely believe they're acting in the best interests of the country. The problem, however, is that they also believe their health care reform bill will be a panacea to everything ailing the U.S. economy. Pelosi's aforementioned statement about how it will create jobs is proof. In her zeal to promote the health care reform measure, she forgot an important fact: the one job sector that has been least hurt by unemployment since the recession started is ... you guessed it ... health care.

Let's face it; health care reform has very little to do with job creation, and the Democrats know it. They're interested in moving forward with their agenda regardless of the other problems facing the country. Rather than admit their mistake and appear weak, Democrats have cast their lot with health care reform and will go wherever it takes them. Why they would choose to fall on their sword and extol the curative powers of their agenda instead of stabilizing the volatile U.S. economy and assuaging an angry public is a mystery to me.

But, then, I stopped trying to figure out liberals a long time ago.

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March 2, 2010 at 2:46 am
(1) Aaron Lanterman says:

Reconciliation is not the “nuclear option.” The term “nuclear option” refers to Bill Frist’s 2005 proposal to kill the filibuster.

On another note: “…which lowers the approval threshold from the constitutionally-required two-thirds majority to a simple majority of 51 percent.”

Could you please point out where it says this in the Constitution? The 60-vote filibuster rule is part of current Senate rules and is not mentioned in the Constitution.

There are a number of things in the Constitution that do require a 2/3 majority, such as impeachment and overriding a presidential veto.

March 2, 2010 at 10:46 am
(2) usconservatives says:

No, you’re right, Aaron. “Two-thirds” is not specifically mentioned in the constitution. What IS specifically mentioned in the constitution, however, is that the House and Senate may set their own procedural rules. They did; in the Senate, that rule is a two-thirds majority.

March 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm
(3) AnnaRIL says:

You’re right Aaron. Reconciliation is not a “Nuclear Option”. ‘
“Nuclear Option” has been first introduced by Republicans to kill the filibuster regarding Judges Nomination proposed by Bush Administration. People who use this term in regards to Health Care Reform are misleading the public. Besides, Health Care Reform Bill passed Senate and House with the Super Majority, meaning 60 votes. Just a reminder for those who have a short memory, it has passed in December of 2009. Reconciliation will be used only to pass the fixes between those two bills. So, stop misinforming American People and scare them with so called “Nuclear Option”. By the way, Reconciliation has been used 22 times in the past. Republicans used Reconciliation 16 times. Stop crying you LOOSERS.

March 2, 2010 at 1:11 pm
(4) usconservatives says:

Real classy, Anna.

Incidentally, the health care reform measures that have been passed via reconciliation in the past have all complied with the Byrd Rule. Secondly, none of these reconciliation measures have been used to pass something as large in size and scope as Medicare or Social Security, which both Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama have said ObamaCare is. It’s a nuclear option because “nuclear” means doing something drastic.

Whatever you call it, it’s wrong; Dems know it, and you know it, too, Anna.

March 2, 2010 at 2:52 pm
(5) AnnaRIL says:

USCONSERVATIVE, did you even read my comment? The BILL has passed in December of 2009. 60 votes. The Senate Rule allows usage of Reconciliation in Budget related cases. They will use this option only to pass corrections between those two bills. Educate yourself before you voice your opinion. Besides, Health Care system is drugging this economy to the ground. Why you’re not concern about that? It is time to stop insurance companies to abuse the system and steal from a hard working people. Their premiums are going up; they cover less, if you have preexisting condition you’re out. I assume, you support that along with your Republican buddies. Way to go. I have a small suggestion; maybe try sometimes to watch something else than Fox news. You might find this refreshing.

March 2, 2010 at 4:56 pm
(6) usconservatives says:


From House.gov:
“After a measure passes in the House, it goes to the Senate for consideration. A bill must pass both bodies in the same form before it can be presented to the President for signature into law.
“If the Senate changes the language of the measure, it must return to the House for concurrence or additional changes. This back-and-forth negotiation may occur on the House floor, with the House accepting or rejecting Senate amendments or complete Senate text. Often a conference committee will be appointed with both House and Senate members. This group will resolve the differences in committee and report the identical measure back to both bodies for a vote. Conference committees also issue reports outlining the final version of the bill.”

The fact is, there is no concurrent legislation between the two houses and therefore, no final bill. Until a final bill is ratified by both houses of Congress, no reconciliation process can be made that affects it. Especially on legislation of this magnitude.

From US Government Info at About.com:
“Creators of the budget reconciliation process did not intend for it to be used as a loophole in the legislative process allowing the majority party to pass controversial social policy bills. To prevent that, Sen. Robert Byrd (D – West Virginia), helped craft six conditions — the Byrd rule — under which any part of a reconciliation bill could be ruled “extraneous” to or having no effect on the federal budget and excluded from consideration under the rules of budget reconciliation.”

The purpose of the Byrd Rule is to make sure that bills unrelated to the budget don’t get passed using reconciliation. In every case where reconciliation has been used with regard to health care since the provision’s passage in 1974, it has been to tidy up an aspect of the existing health care system as it relates to the federal budget. The goal of the Byrd Rule was to REDUCE expenditures and make sure existing revenues aren’t negatively affected (or reduced). IOW, if a budget amendment increases spending or decreases revenue, the Byrd Rule kicks in. The amendment is then deemed “extraneous” and reconciliation cannot be used.

There are exceptions to the Byrd Rule of course, but all of them have to do with reducing spending or increasing revenue (neither of which apply to ObamaCare).

If the Democrats try to cram ObamaCare through reconciliation, it will be a direct violation of the Byrd Rule. Byrd himself acknowledged this last year when reconciliation was being discussed then.

Trouble is, Anna, if Democrats do this — and they’re successful — they’ll be setting a terrible precedent. They should really think it through, because that precedent will be set when they are no longer in power, as well. Which means they’ll be helpless to stop Republicans from doing whatever they want to do via reconciliation. There can be no up without a down.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Byrd, btw, is a Democrat.

March 2, 2010 at 5:22 pm
(7) Ed says:

John Dennis is not the only one running against Nancy Pelosi. Dana Walsh is the only real candidate running against Nancy Pelosi. She has true conservative values and national support. John is against extra judicial systems, wants to close gitmo, thinks our foreign military bases are unconstitutional and do not keep us safe, in favor of cutting defense spending and plans to hook up with the anti-war left. Runor is he is even going to be endorsed by Cindy Sheehan in the general election. This would be a travesty to the Republican Party. In a time wehre we are gaining momentum, to have someone to the left of Nancy Pelosi represent us would be a detriment and could harm the integrity and future of the party. Support Dana Walsh. http://www.defeatNancyPelosi.com

Dana is the one to beat pelosi! lets get her out!

March 2, 2010 at 5:38 pm
(8) usconservatives says:

Thanks for pointing this out, Ed. I hadn’t realized Dana Walsh was running. My apologies.

Unfortunately, it’s sad that Pelosi’s victory is such a foregone conclusion in the mainstream media that it’s nearly impossible to find info out there on her opponents unless you know what you’re looking for.

Thanks again!

March 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm
(9) BethFred says:

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