Obamacare Was Not Passed Via Reconciliation


David French:

Remember when the Democrats passed ObamaCare through reconciliation, using procedural gimmickry to pass major social legislation over the unanimous objection of the majority party? So do congressional Republicans, and it looks like payback might be imminent.

I know this is an easy mistake to make, but I’m pretty sure Obamacare was passed over the unanimous objection of the minority party, the Democrats having won a massive, landslide victory in 2008. They figured this gave them a mandate to carry out the promises made during the campaign—silly, I know, since only Republicans have mandates—and they proceeded to do just that.

Less excusable is French’s contention that Obamacare was passed via reconciliation. It wasn’t. It was passed in the Senate under regular order, by a vote of 60-39 on December 24, 2009. Later, after Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate, the House passed the Senate bill and then passed a second bill that implemented a few modest increases to subsidy levels and taxes. None of them were critical to the overall bill, but the Senate agreed to support these changes. These small, nonessential adjustments are the only part of Obamacare that was passed via reconciliation.

Everything else—the individual mandate, the pre-existing conditions ban, the subsidies, the Medicaid expansion, the medical loss ratios, the donut hole, the cost improvements, the taxes to pay for it all—in other words, everything that mattered, was passed via regular order.

As for the unanimous opposition of Republicans, that’s perfectly true. Democrats in the Senate tried mightily to put together a plan that might attract some GOP votes, but Republicans were adamantine. They pretended to negotiate, but by October it was clear they were just playing delaying games and had no intention of ever supporting anything that would expand access to health care. This strategy of blind obstruction, which applied to every part of Obama’s agenda, not just Obamacare, is a huge blot not on Democrats, but on the congressional Republicans who decided on it before Obama ever set foot in the Oval Office. It was only in the face of this unconditional obstruction that Democrats went ahead and passed something on their own.