Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) appearance on ABC’s This Week Sunday was a pretty darn dishonest display to say the least. One argument, in particular, was pretty hard to overlook.
“The reconciliation procedure is a little-used legislative procedure—19 times it’s been used. It’s for the purpose of taxing and spending and reducing deficits.
“But the difference here is that there’s never been anything of this size and magnitude and complexity run through the Senate in this way. There are a lot of technical problems with it, which we could discuss. It would turn the Senate—it would really be the end of the United States Senate as a protector of minority rights, as a place where you have to get consensus, instead of just a partisan majority, and it would be a political kamikaze mission for the Democratic Party if they jam this through [....]“
The very next question host Elizabeth Vargas asked was, “Why political kamikaze, though?”
So let me see if I go this right. No effort at all to push back against Alexander’s dishonest claims much less set the record straight for viewers. No, the question focuses on the electoral consequences of the legislation, rather than the substantive. Instead the senator’s straight right policy lies were allowed to pass, while the senator’s campaign predictions drew scrutiny.
With that in mind, lets just explain how flat out dishonest about his comments actually were. (1) For Alexander to dismiss reconciliation as a “little-used legislative procedure” is disingenuous. Reconciliation has been used, legitimately, to pass everything from welfare reform to COBRA (the “R” stands for reconciliation), Bush’s massive tax-cuts to student-aid reform, nursing home standards to the earned income tax credit.
In fact, in the not to distant past, Senate Republicans even considered using reconciliation to approve drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So it is a little too late to characterize the same procedural measure as some kind of outrage, after Republicans relied on it extensively.
(2) To insist that reconciliation’s purpose is to “reduce deficits” is wrong on like ten different levels. As Paul Krugman noted, “[R]econciliation was used to pass the two major Bush tax cuts, which increased the deficit—by $1.8 trillion.”
(3) Even if we concede that health care reform is bigger in “size and magnitude” than the other bills approved through reconciliation, the plan isn’t to pass health care reform through reconciliation. The Health Care Reform bill passed the Senate with 60 votes. Reconciliation will be utilized to makes minor tweaks and changes to that bill after the House passes the Senate bill.
And finally, (4) To suggest passing a budget fix by majority rule “would really be the end of the United States Senate as a protector of minority rights” is comically ridiculous.
It was a rather depressing and pitiful display all around. But here’s the real kicker: there will be no consequences. Lamar Alexander, who may actually know better then most on his side of the aisle, made a variety of demonstrably false claims on national television. Not only was he not called on it, Alexander will almost certainly be invited back, rewarded for his dishonesty with more opportunities to mislead the public.