As the Senate debate heats up over whether Democratic leaders will use a parliamentary process of reconciliation to push through health care reform, attention has focused on a four-year-old quote by former Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) that Gregg this week said has been taken out of context.

The 2005 quote, which has been featured in Democratic press releases as well as aired on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," shows Gregg referring to reconciliation as an appropriate tool for the majority party to use.

"Reconciliation is a rule of the Senate set up under the Budget Act," Gregg said at the time. "It has been used before for purposes exactly like this on numerous occasions. The fact is, all this rule of the Senate does is allow a majority of the Senate to take a position and pass a piece of legislation, support that position. Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don't think so."

But Gregg now tells The Hill that he was referring to a $39 billion savings amendment at the time, and that health care reform represents a much more distinctive and disturbing use of reconciliation.
"Reconciliation is a legitimate vehicle, and I've supported it before," Gregg said. "I would even support it relative to education. But to do something as massive as a total re-write of the health care system, that's not what it's for."

-J. Taylor Rushing