McCain’s Reconciliation Flip-Flop


This Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Sen. John McCain announced that he plans to introduce an amendment that would prohibit the Democrats from using reconciliation to make changes to Medicare. Entitlement programs “should not be part of a reconciliation process,” he declared to David Gregory, referring to the filibuster-proof procedure that requires only 51 votes. “It’s too important.”

But just five years ago McCain himself voted to use reconciliation to make spending cuts to an entitlement program—in this case, Medicaid. McCain, along with 30 other current Republican senators, used a simple majority to pass George W. Bush’s 2005 Deficit Reduction Act, which, among other things, “reduced Medicaid spending and allowed parents of disabled children to buy into Medicaid,” as Greg Sargent notes. (Sargent’s list of all the Republicans who have voted for reconciliation over the past 20 years is worth a look.)

McCain’s hypocrisy blows a hole in the Republicans’ contention that if Democrats use reconciliation to pass health care reform, they’ll “end the Senate” as we know it. While the GOP has accused Democrats of “ramming” and “jamming” reform through the Senate, the bill in question already passed the Senate back in December. If that measure manages to clear the House, the Senate will only be passing limited tweaks to its bill via a so-called reconciliation sidecar—not pushing through a massive overhaul of the entire legislation. And although some of those fixes may apply to Medicare and Medicaid, they fall squarely within accepted reconciliation procedure, which is used for legislative tweaks that directly affect the federal budget.

Of course, Republicans themselves have long pushed for much deeper spending cuts to entitlement programs, only to turn around and accuse the Democrats of slashing benefits for vulnerable Americans. All of which makes it clear that McCain’s latest flip-flop is just a political maneuver intended to derail reform, not some principled defense of the democratic process.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.