Thursday, March 04, 2010

Senate Reconciliation on Health Care

President Obama is insisting that Congress swiftly pass a health care reform bill, as he urged them to do on Wednesday (find the video clip and transcript on The New York Times reports that Obama is asking Congress to have a simple "up or down" vote on the bill known as "reconciliation," although the President doesn't use this specific term.

So what is congressional reconciliation, exactly? This term is explained in the House of Representatives document How Our Laws Are Made (enter "reconciliation" in the search box of the PDF): "In the Senate, reconciliation bills reported from committee are entitled to expedited consideration, permitting a majority of Senators, rather than sixty, to ensure consideration of the bill with limited time for amendments." The reconciliation process is described with even further detail in the Congressional Research Service report, The Budget Reconciliation Process: House and Senate Procedures.

"But wait," you might ask, "This isn't about a budget." Therein lies some controversy. See this National Public Radio report, posted on Senator Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) web site, which states that U.S. health legislation has a history of being included in budgets and thus being allowed to follow the expedited reconciliation process.

Want to learn more about the legislative process? Take a look at our guide to Congress and Legislation.

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