President Obama is advocating the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass ObamaCare through the House and Senate. This procedure also referred to as the ObamaCare Nuclear Option and the Health Care Nuclear Option because the liberals are using this procedure as a means to get around the filibuster in the Senate. This same President Obama who opposed the Nuclear Option in 2005 as a back bench Senator.
Jake Tapper of ABC News wrote yesterday about the President's announcement:
White House officials tell ABC News that in his remarks tomorrow President Obama will indicate a willingness to work with Republicans on some issue to get a health care reform bill passed but will suggest that if it is necessary, Democrats will use the controversial "reconciliation" rules requiring only 51 Senate votes to pass the "fix" to the Senate bill, as opposed to the 60 votes to stop a filibuster and proceed to a vote on a bill.
What is this the Nuclear Option? It is a tactic to get around a Senate filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) could not get ObamaCare to the President's desk with a huge majority in the House and a filibuster proof Senate. Then Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) won in the Massachusetts Special Election and ended the Democrats 60 vote filibuster proof majority in the Senate. What is a liberal to do? Change the rules.
There are three reasons why this perversion of reconciliation is unprecedented and wrong. First, the liberals failed to pass ObamaCare through the regular order when they had huge majorities, therefore they need to change the rules of the game to pass ObamaCare. Also, the leadership in Congress is attempting to use a reconciliation measure to amend a bill that has yet to be signed into law. The plan is for the House to pass the Senate passed version of ObamaCare, then to pass the reconciliation measure to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Finally, the bill is unpopular, yet the majority party needs to restrict the rights of the minority party to make sure the minority party does not use procedural rights to uphold the will of a majority of Americans who hate ObamaCare.
Some Senate Republicans in 2005 considered the a Nuclear Option strong arm tactic to pass some of President Bush's judicial nominees. What they advocated was to set a Senate precedent that the filibuster does not apply to judges. This would have negated the filibuster rule for judges. What the liberals are doing today is to use reconciliation as a means to make the filibuster rule not apply to ObamaCare. This would negate the filibuster for ObamaCare. These two actions are very similar.
Back in 2005, the far left called that tactic the nuclear option and they fought against any attempt to rid the Senate rules of the filibuster. In 2005, the liberals were right. In April of 2005, Senator Barack Obama complained that the Nuclear Option would "change the character of the Senate forever." Obama complained that having "majoritarian absolute power on either side and that is not what our Founders intended." Senator Barack Obama fought a brave and heroic fight against the attempted abolition of the filibuster. It is too bad that this same man has been consumed by power and an unyielding will to pass ObamaCare through any means necessary.
One of the liberal groups on the side of the filibuster in2005 was the Center for American Progress (CAP):
As early as this week, a “nuclear option” could be invoked to remove the 200-year-old tradition of the Senate filibuster, the tool that empowers 41 or more senators to prevent a narrow majority from abusing its power. The filibuster is one of the only ways to encourage genuine bipartisan cooperation and compromise on important issues that come before the Senate. The nuclear option is currently being considered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and being pushed by the Religious Right, who would like to confirm President Bush’s judicial nominees. American Progress has put together this resource guide to help you understand the issues.
I would advocate that you use the guide and excellent resources of the Center for American Progress for two purposes. They have compiled some excellent arguments about why the filibuster is constitutional and promotes bipartisanship in the Senate. As I wrote on The Foundry a few months ago:
The Center for American Progress (CAP) set up a page titled The Nuclear Option were they wrote “the filibuster is one of the only ways to encourage genuine bipartisan cooperation and compromise on important issues that come before the Senate.” CAP hosted a conference titled, Going Nuclear – The Threat to our System of Checks and Balances on April 25, 2005. John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress spoke at the event where he said "by removing the safeguard offered by the filibuster, the nuclear option would seriously and perhaps irreparably damage an institution that has functioned since the its inception under customs and traditions that ensure an atmosphere of careful deliberation and mutual respect. Ultimately, this is not a dispute between the left and the right. It is a matter of right and wrong. It’s a choice between safeguarding our system of checks and balances or destabilizing it; between upholding the Senate’s coequal role in the confirmation progress or diminishing it."
I refer Red State readers to the following CAP resources on the filibuster and the Nuclear Option:
- Statement on Diffusing Nuclear Option, by John Podesta, May 24, 2005
It should never have come to this. But we commend the 14 senators whose eleventh-hour agreement has ended a reckless exercise in nuclear brinkmanship.
- Back from the Brink: A Conventional Alternative to the Nuclear Option, by John D. Podesta and Mark D. Agrast, May 12, 2005
There is yet time for thoughtful people on both sides to avert a confrontation that would impair the ability of the Senate to act as an effective counterweight to presidential power.
- On the Brink of 'Theocracy', by Reverend Carlton W. Veazey, May 5, 2005
Progressives who think warnings about "theocracy" are an exaggeration should take a closer look at "Justice Sunday: Filibustering People of Faith," the Christian Right telethon headlined by Senate Majority Leader William Frist.
- Going Nuclear: The Threat to Our System of Checks and Balances, A Center for American Progress Event, April 25, 2005
The Center for American Progress brought together distinguished scholars and public figures to discuss the role of the filibuster in protecting minority rights and providing an effective counterweight to presidential power.
The Wall Street Journal says it much better than I and I shall close with the following nugget from the Op Ed "Abuse of Power"
A string of electoral defeats and the great unpopularity of ObamaCare can't stop Democrats from their self-appointed rendezvous with liberal destiny—ramming a bill through Congress on a narrow partisan vote. What we are about to witness is an extraordinary abuse of traditional Senate rules to pass a bill merely because they think it's good for the rest of us, and because they fear their chance to build a European welfare state may never come again.