Gary Wisenbaker Blog
Gary Wisenbaker
The reconciliation bill: scramblin’ through the briars
Cruz, Rubio and missed opportunities

Building a case one bill at the time

“But whatever you do, please don't throw me into that terr'ble briar patch!" cried Brer Rabbit.

You may recall Brer Rabbit’s attempt to get Brer Fox, in whose clutches he found himself, to do just that: toss him to the briars.  And being dared to do so, Brer Fox did just that thus becoming the agent of his own undoing.

It is a simple lesson in strategy based on opportunity, such as is now unfolding in Washington.

The House recently passed a budget reconciliation bill by a vote of 240 to 189.  The bill repeals key elements of Obamacare including the individual and employer mandates, the newly imposed tax on medical devices, and the “Cadillac tax”, a 40 percent, non-deductible tax on employer-sponsored health coverage.

The reconciliation bill also defunds Planned Parenthood for a year, preserving and diverting those monies to other women’s health programs.

The legislation now moves to the Senate and, as a reconciliation measure addressing only revenue and spending issues not subject to the filibuster, needs only a simple majority vote to pass rather than 60 votes.
It is a clever ploy by the GOP leadership to get the Democrats and the president to go on record opposing changes in a law that a clear majority of Americans want changed or repealed. And when the veto comes back to be overridden, the Democrats will find themselves once again on the wrong side of the issues.

But there’s a problem, well, three problems really: Sens. Cruz, Rubio and Lee, three of the 54 Republicans in the Senate, have said they’ll oppose the bill.  

This is political grandstanding and posturing at its worse since the reconciliation bill needs 51 votes to pass. Do the math.

They whine that the bill doesn’t “do enough” and have staked out an all or nothing position.  Such a myopic view is disappointing coming from, as it does, two presidential candidates claiming possession of a bigger vision for America.

The real question is whether or not it does enough to live up to a promise to defund Obamacare (it does) and at the same time define key issues for 2016 (it does).  

That the polling data suggests the three items specified in the reconciliation test through the roof as chief concerns of the American voter and they want something done about them is without contradiction. 

Any piece of legislation can always contain more but with that comes the risk of alienating needed votes for passage.  While the reconciliation could have included a roll back of the Medicaid expansion provisions, doing so might have endangered support from some senators in tight reelection fights in 2016.

It might have included elimination of all the boards Obamacare calls for but that might have forced the Senate parliamentarian to rule that the legislation didn’t qualify as a reconciliation and, therefore, subject to the filibuster (such had previously been suggested in earlier versions of the bill).

True, the measure doesn’t throw in the kitchen sink on Obamacare but, as Hillary might say, “What does it matter now?”

The measure, if passed by the Senate, will be vetoed by a Democratic president.  The Republican legislative leadership should immediately call for a vote to override the veto.  The veto will be sustained by Democratic votes.

And just like Brer Rabbit got his briar thicket, the GOP will get theirs.
Then on to 2016.

Gary Wisenbaker ( of Valdosta, Ga., is a PR and political consultant.

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