John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Reconciliation Won’t Bring Reconciliation

Posted on February 2, 2021

Using reconciliation won’t bring reconciliation to a divided nation, but it will bring clarity to the voters.

Budget reconciliation as a parliamentary procedure was enacted by Congress in 1974 and has been used by both Republicans and Democrats to achieve their top legislative objectives.

Republicans typically cut taxes and spending using reconciliation while Democrats typically raise taxes and expand the size and scope of government using the same procedure.

Reconciliation has not been used to bring the American people together. It has been used to achieve the ideological hopes and dreams of slim majorities in a sharply divided country.

President Biden has promised to unify the country. But many of his advisers and allies on the Hill, sensing that their time in control of both the House and the Senate is short, want to achieve as much legislatively as possible, as quickly as possible.

They have ample history to support their concerns.

Former President Clinton used reconciliation in his first two years of Congress to sharply raise taxes and increase spending, and Democrats lost the House for first time in 40 years in the next election.

Former President Obama used reconciliation to pass ObamaCare, and he squandered his majority shortly after.

Former President George W. Bush cut taxes twice using reconciliation, but because the voters like their taxes cut, it didn’t hurt him with the voters in 2005. Former President Trump failed in his efforts to repeal ObamaCare, using reconciliation procedures but succeeded in using it to cut taxes. Republicans lost the House, but it is safe to say that loss in 2018 had nothing to do with budget reconciliation.

The choice that faces the Democrats is simple: Do we try to score as many legislative points as possible, understanding that our time in the majority is fleeting? Or do we try to govern from the middle and try to build consensus with moderate Republicans to better protect our majority status?

Moving to accommodate Republicans would be smarter politically. The GOP is divided internally. Some are trying to quickly move the party beyond Trump, while others still not only like him but embrace his populist appeal.

A deal that included 10 to 15 Republicans in the Senate might not achieve all that the Congressional Progressive Caucus had hoped, but it would divide the Republicans even further and more importantly give cover to moderate Democrats running for reelection in less than two years.

But the more Democrats move to embrace their progressive agenda, the more unified the Republicans will become.

We have already seen this in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has chosen to crack down on parliamentary dissent, going out of her way to alienate both hard-core conservatives and more moderate Republicans.

Biden’s executive order spree has similarly enraged and united the Republican Party.

Biden came into office with reputation of being a dealmaker who could talk to Republicans. And he campaigned as the anti-socialist during the Democratic primary.

But thus far, he as a governed as a progressive who is living out every virtue-signaling sign put out in front of every liberal household in the country.

That’s not surprising. The Democratic Party has moved far, far to the left, mostly because of Trump Derangement syndrome.

The Jan. 6 riot has only further radicalized congressional Democrats. They want revenge, not compromise. They want to cancel their colleagues, not cut deals with them.

When historians look back at COVID-19 era, they will most likely be puzzled by politicization of the virus. And they will be further puzzled as to why Democrats would use the reconciliation process to respond to COVID-19 when Congress passed several bipartisan packages the year before with Trump as president.

The answer, of course, is that the Democrats don’t want to unify the country. They want to run the country. And they have little if any interest in sharing power with a Republican Party that they increasingly despise, no matter how bad the politics will be for them in the next election.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

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