2010-03-04

A Brief History of Senate Reconciliation Votes — Making Government Transparent and Accountable - Sunlight Foundation Blog

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A Brief History of Senate Reconciliation Votes

As Democrats move forward to pass health care reform attention has focused on a key piece of Senate rules known as budget reconciliation. This post takes Senate vote records covering 13 key reconciliation votes from 1990 to 2007 to show how senators in both parties voted–and how sitting senators voted in the past–on a variety of reconciliation bills.
(Click on the image to the right for a full visualization of these reconciliation votes.)
Reconciliation is a legislative process in the Senate commonly used to pass legislation concerning spending, revenues or the debt-limit. The process has been used 22 times since 1974. More often than not, these bills have been vehicles for large reforms in the tax code, health care and other social programs from education to welfare. One key reason that reconciliation is used for major reforms is that the process is subject to different rules than other bills. Most importantly, reconciliation bills are not subject to cloture votes–the 60 vote supermajority procedure to overcome a filibuster–and thus only require a 50 vote majority to pass.
The voting record shows that reconciliation is often used as a way to pass otherwise contentious legislation that could not receive sufficient bipartisan support to reach the 60 vote supermajority necessary to clear a cloture vote. Seven of the thirteen reconciliation measures examined here passed between 1990 and 2007 were almost universally opposed by the minority party while gaining almost total unity in support from the majority using the reconciliation process.