What the Budget Deal, Obamacare, and the Nuclear Option Have in Common

This week the Senate may pass the Ryan-Murray budget, which the House passed last week by a vote of 332 – 94.   Apart from the fact that it is terrible policy and constitutes a $63 billion spending increase over the next two years, there is reason to be concerned with how the deal affects Senate procedure.  Bad policy often becomes law because lawmakers break the rules, pass legislation that changes rules in a dangerous way for the minority, or use procedural changes as leverage to negotiate bad policy.  

While that may sound boring or insignificant, procedure can make or break good (and bad) legislation.  As Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) once said, “If you let me write the procedure and I let you write the substance, I’ll beat you every time.”

Rather than enacting good policy (i.e. policy that would fly back home with constituents) lawmakers often just change the rules or procedure to get their way.  Liberals have provided us two important examples of this: the passage of Obamacare and the invocation of the nuclear option in the Senate.  Passing the Ryan-Murray budget would perpetuate this negative practice.

Senate Democrats used procedures normally reserved for other types of legislation to pass Obamacare — most notably, “the budget reconciliation process that avoided a filibuster while moving the final legislation through the Senate.”  Budget reconciliation is normally only used for more limited fiscal legislation, not a healthcare law remaking one-sixth of the U.S. economy.  Obamacare was also released in the middle of the night, passed before lawmakers had a chance to read it, and passed on strictly partisan lines.

Then there was the nuclear option, which may seem less significant than Obamacare, but it was invoked so that liberals could advance the liberal agenda via the courts.  It’s certainly no small matter.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% broke the Senate rules to change the Senate rules, all in order to get rid of the filibuster for presidential nominations and weaken the rights of the minority.  Under previous Senate rules, Senators were able to debate whether to confirm presidential nominations until 60 members voted to invoke cloture and end debate.  After Reid changed the rules, that threshold was lowered to a simple majority of 51 votes, effectively ending the filibuster for nominations.  

When Reid was the minority leader in 2005, he was adamantly opposed to changing the filibuster rules.  Moreover, as majority leader, he created a false sense of urgency and fabricated a narrative in which Republicans were obstructing a significant number of President Obama’s nominations from being confirmed — which the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky easily disproved.

In light of this egregious power grab by Democrats, and with the reckless passage of Obamacare in our recent past memory, this is no time to further erode the rights of the minority with this budget deal.

According to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the Ryan-Murray budget would change Senate procedure to make it easier to increase spending.  Specifically, language in the budget deal would remove the budget point of order, which Sen. Sessions and others have used in the past to prevent new spending.

Our senior legislative strategist Tripp Baird said:

It’s never a good idea for House leaders to negotiate away Senate procedure that would stop tax and spending messaging amendments. Republicans post-nuclear fallout should not give any procedural advantage to Democrats. Period.

Unfortunately, the Ryan-Murray budget agreement does give Democrats further procedural advantages.  Where does this Democrat trend end?  Just hours after the filibuster rules were changed, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) called for further changes:

This has been escalating for a long period of time and it was time to stop it and that’s what we did this morning. Now we need to take it a step farther and change the filibuster rules on legislation.

It seems liberals are always willing to do more to advance their agenda.

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