To undo health reform, use reconciliation process, urges Rove

Karl Rove advised Republicans on Thursday to use the controversial process of budget reconciliation to undo President Obama's healthcare reform.

The former Bush political strategist said using that process, which the GOP loudly protested during the healthcare debate as a way to "ram through" legislation, would provide Republicans in the Senate their best path toward repealing the new reform law with just a simple majority of votes.

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"For example, under reconciliation the Senate Budget Committee could instruct the Senate Finance Committee to reduce mandatory spending on insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion," Rove wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "Because reconciliation is protected by the rules of the budget process, it doesn't take 60 votes to bring it up and it requires only a simple majority to pass."

Using reconciliation would allow the Republican House to pass legislation undoing parts of healthcare reform directly related to the budget — that is, its tax and spending measures. But if Republicans were able to force debate on that bill in the Senate, they would need only 51 votes (instead of the 60 needed to bypass a filibuster) to pass that legislation, and send it to President Obama.

The scenario has a number of procedural hurdles. First, the Democratic-held Senate would have to agree to allow debate on the bill. Second, even if it were to come up for debate, Republicans would have to pick off four Democrats and hold together all 47 GOP votes to advance a bill. Third, they would face an almost-certain veto from the present. And fourth, even if they were to succeed, it wouldn't wipe out all areas of the law, since reconciliation can be used only to affect areas of the law germane to the budget.

Still, such a strategy would represent an extraordinary shift by Republicans in Congress, who spent the better part of a year loudly protesting the use of reconciliation in the healthcare debate.

Liberal Democrats had urged leaders to use the process to include a public option (or "government-run" plan) in the legislation, but that never happened. However, a reconciliation bill was passed as a supplement to the overall healthcare bill, making fixes to the Senate-passed legislation, in order to win adequate support for it in the House.

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