Senator Robert Byrd, March 2009: Passing health-care reform via budget reconciliation is an “outrage”
Here is Senator Robert C. Byrd’s (D-W. Va.) entire Washington Post op-ed article of March 22, 2009, in which he called use of budget reconciliation as a way to bypass Senate debate “arcane”, “undemocratic” and an “outrage that must be resisted.” Note that a year later (2010), the House used reconciliation to pass health-care reform. It is an outrage, and people on both sides of the aisle should be very concerned about it. The piece is just three paragraphs and worth reading in its entirety.
ROBERT C. BYRD (D-W. Va.)
Member of the Senate Budget Committee and senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee
Americans have an inalienable right to a careful examination of proposals that dramatically affect their lives. I was one of the authors of the legislation that created the budget “reconciliation” process in 1974, and I am certain that putting health-care reform and climate change legislation on a freight train through Congress is an outrage that must be resisted.
Using the reconciliation process to enact major legislation prevents an open debate about critical issues in full view of the public. Health reform and climate change are issues that, in one way or another, touch every American family. Their resolution carries serious economic and emotional consequences.
The misuse of the arcane process of reconciliation — a process intended for deficit reduction — to enact substantive policy changes is an undemocratic disservice to our people and to the Senate’s institutional role. Reconciliation, with its tight time limits, excludes debate and shuts down amendments. Essentially it says “take it or leave it” to the citizens who sent us here to solve problems, and it prevents members from representing their constituents’ interests. Everyone likes to win, and the Obama administration, of course, wants victories. But tactics that ignore the means in pursuit of the ends are wrong when the outcome affects Americans’ health and economic security. Let us inform the people, get their feedback, allow amendments to be considered and hear opposing views. That’s the American way and the right way.
Source: Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Washington Post Opinions, March 22, 2009, “The End of Bipartisanship for Obama’s Big Initiatives?”.