I will guarantee you that most people had never heard of budget "reconciliation" until the last week or so. And you will hear a lot more about it coming weeks.
"Reconciliation" is a term for a specific budget process in the Congress that puts a tax and spending bill on a fast track for consideration in the U.S. Senate, requiring only 51 votes for approval, outlawing filibusters that would require 60 votes to force final action.
Republicans used budget reconciliation several times during the Bush Administration in order to get the President's tax cut plans through the Congress.
But now when Democrats want to use it, it is like they have dusted off some terribly unfair, seldom used, super-duper-secret way of doing business, in order to get items like health care reform through the Congress.
As of now, key Senators of both parties are on the record saying they don't want to make health care part of reconciliation, worried it will poison the debate and undermine efforts for a bipartisan solution on health care.
The budget resolution approved by the House Budget Committee on Wednesday does include the right to use budget reconciliation, while the Senate's bill does not have that.
"I belive that it is absolutely essential we come out of this year with substantial health care reform," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday.
"I believe that is best served by having reconciliation," she added.
In other words, no filibuster threat.
The House hates the Senate, even when it is run by the same party, because the filibuster derails so many different pieces of legislation.
This isn't a new thing. I was reading a book recently that talked about Speaker Joe Cannon in the early 20th century, who was mouthing off about the Senate and its lack of action on bills approved by the House.
You could substitute "Pelosi" for "Cannon" and most of the quotes would still make sense today.
Now before Republicans start hyperventilating about how they never used budget reconciliation, that's just not true.
The GOP used the process in 1995 for some of its agenda under the "Contract With America."
They used it again in 1996 to help enact Welfare Reform, undermining the argument that reconciliation should not be used for major policy issues.
When President Bush got into office, the GOP used reconciliation for his tax cuts in 2001 and again for tax cuts in 2003.
We'll see whether the Democrats decide to go for the gusto this year. You can argue they should strike while the iron was hot, or you can argue they should wait until next year or after the 2010 elections.
Like I said in another blog today, the battle will be in coming months over the details. That's when this year will really get fun.
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