E.J. Dionne Knocks Down Orrin Hatch's Talking Points On Reconciliation

On Meet the Press, E.J. Dionne and Orrin Hatch continue their argument that started on the op-ed pages of the Washington Post. More on that from Stev

On Meet the Press, E.J. Dionne and Orrin Hatch continue their argument that started on the op-ed pages of the Washington Post.

More on that from Steve Benen:

Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) Washington Post op-ed on Tuesday has generated quite a bit of criticism lately, and for good reason -- it was an embarrassing mess, filled with obvious and demonstrable falsehoods.

It was encouraging, then, to see the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Jr. use his column today to call out the conservative Utahan for publishing dishonest arguments. [...]

Dionne also explained that Hatch deliberately misled readers about quotes from his Senate colleagues and misstated the record in terms of Senate use of reconciliation. The columnist concluded that he's "disappointed in Hatch." Read on...

Transcript via NBC below the fold.

MR. GREGORY: All right. So let's get to this whole business of reconciliation, which budget reconciliation means you, you have a separate bill here that would only need a simple majority, that would just deal with some of the spending provisions of health care.

You two, Senator Hatch and E.J. Dionne, had some words about this on the pages of The Washington Post, and let me--Senator Hatch, let me put a portion of what you wrote about reconciliation on the screen: "This use of reconciliation to jam through this legislation, against the will of the American people, would be unprecedented in scope. And the havoc wrought would threaten our system of checks and balances, corrode the legislative process, degrade our system of government and damage the prospects of bipartisanship."

E.J., your response on the pages of the Post included this: "I'm disappointed in Hatch, co-sponsor of two of my favorite bills in recent years. One created the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The other, signed last year by Obama, broadly expanded service opportunities. Hatch worked on both with his dear friend, the late Edward M. Kennedy, after whom the service bill was named.

"It was Kennedy, you'll recall, who insisted that health care was a `fundamental right and not a privilege.' That's why it's not just legitimate to use reconciliation to complete the work on health reform. It would be immoral to do otherwise and thereby let a phony argument about process get in the way of health coverage for 30 million Americans." Discuss.

SEN. HATCH: Well, Democrats--this is not a fight between Republicans and Democrats in a real sense, it's between Democrats and the people out there. Fifty-eight percent of the people are against this bill and very few are for it. The fact of the matter is they're going to abuse the reconciliation rules. And let me tell you, the reconciliation rules have never been used for such sweeping social legislation like this. This is one-sixth of the American economy. It's sweeping in, in effect. There--and, and, and there have been three sweeping social bull--not sweeping, but social bills that have been approved through reconciliation. One was, of course, the, the welfare reform. That had 78 positive votes, but--huge bipartisan vote. Another one was the SCHIP bill, my bill with Senator Kennedy. That had 85 votes. The third one was college tuition, and that had, I think, something like 78 votes. The fact of the matter is, is that it has never been done before, it's never been used before. To do this is just very, very dangerous. It's going to cause an awful lot of problems. And in the end, in the end, you're going to--and let's, let's look at one other thing. The Senate bill was passed. Now, E.J. seems to accept the fact that the House bill was passed, but they're two different bills. Now they're going to take the Senate bill, they say. But if they had the votes, it would already have been voted on. They don't have the votes. So I suspect they're going to manipulate the rules even further in ways that were never contemplated in order to get this dog through...

MR. GREGORY: E.J....

SEN. HATCH: ...this 2700-page--2711-page dog.

MR. DIONNE: Where to begin? First of all, I find it astonishing that so many Republicans who, when President Bush surged troops into Iraq against the polls, said, "This is a courageous act." And when President Obama tries to push a healthcare bill against the polls, "This is a terrible thing." This is not a consistent argument. Several points. First, the health bill that with--President Obama will sign got 60 votes in the Senate, because that's the bill the House would pass. The only thing that's being talked about here are amendments that would be passed through reconciliation dealing with money, which is in the tradition of reconciliation.

Second, Senator Hatch keeps saying this is unprecedented in scope and that, you know...

SEN. HATCH: It is.

MR. DIONNE: ...you need bipartisan support. There's a big chart in New York Times today put together by Tom Mann of Brookings, Norm Ornstein, and their colleagues. In the--there are seven instances where reconciliation was used in cases where the bill got less--fewer than 60 votes, five of those were done by Republican Senates. And I didn't hear Senator Hatch complain about that. Two of those involved President Bush's tax cuts, which added $1.7 trillion to our deficit.

SEN. HATCH: It never...

MR. DIONNE: Now, if that isn't significant policy change, I don't know what is.

SEN. HATCH: And if ever...

MR. DIONNE: And there was no complaint about that. So is Senator Hatch saying it's OK to use reconciliation to pass tax cuts for the wealthy, but it's just terrible to use it if you're going to extend healthcare coverage? I say let's not talk about a phony process argument, let's talk about the problems people have with health care. If he wants to argue about health care...

MR. GREGORY: All right. Quick response, Senator, and then let me get the others in on this.

SEN. HATCH: In every case except two they were--they, they had bipartisan votes. In two of them--in 1993, Clinton's bill, yeah, they got a reconciliation bill on a purely partisan vote that Congress changed to Republicans. The Republicans did the same thing in I think it was 2005, got a bill through just on a totally partisan vote, and it changed to Democrats. The fact of the matter is you can't...

MR. DIONNE: Are you talking about bipartisanship or you talking about reconciliation?

SEN. HATCH: You can't--no, wait, wait, wait. You can't...

MR. DIONNE: These were reconciliation bills...

SEN. HATCH: That was reconciliation.

MR. DIONNE: ...that picked up one or two Democrats.

SEN. HATCH: You cannot ignore the fact that we're talking about the first time in history, sweeping social legislation will be passed, if they get their way, by a totally partisan vote. One-sixth of the American economy. If we do that, Katy bar the door, I got to tell you.

MR. DIONNE: If the Republican Party were not sitting there being obstructionist--what Senator Hatch is saying is, if Republicans unite and say, "We won't vote for this," and you need bipartisanship, he's saying Democrats can't govern. And if $1.7 trillion...

SEN. HATCH: Well, they can't.

MR. DIONNE: ...in tax cuts isn't significant, I don't know what is.

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