Hoyer: Passing Health Care through ‘Reconciliation’ Process Is Part of Democratic Process

By Nicholas Ballasy and Edwin Mora | September 4, 2009 | 3:24 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - During a town hall meeting in Waldorf, Md., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that using "reconciliation" tactics to pass health care reform legislation is “not ramming something through with a majority – it is doing what Democracy calls for.”
Under reconciliation, the Senate could pass health care reform with a simple majority, 51 votes, instead of the usual 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
At the town hall meeting on Sept. 1, Hoyer was asked: “…  In March, you stated, about the end of March that, and I quote, ‘Democrats wouldn’t ram a partisan health care bill through the Senate with reconciliation tactics.’ I understand that to mean that you would not override a bill and force it through with only Democratic support. I want to know, sir, a direct yes or no statement, would you stand by your earlier statements and refuse to try to override what appears to be a significant majority in this country?”
Hoyer answered, “I don’t think that’s a yes or no question,” which sparked jeers and boos from the crowd.
“There are a lot of angry people in this room, and it’s unfortunate, but it’s not a yes or no question,” Hoyer continued. “Let me explain to you why it’s not a yes or no question. First of all, I don’t accept necessarily your premise in terms of ramming through.
“Max Baucus, who’s the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, has been working for the last 10 months with Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, to try to reach an agreement on a health care bill,” he added.

“I think they have a lot of misinformation,” said Hoyer.  “I think these meetings are to try to get better information, and we’ll try to get as much information as people need. And they can disagree, of course, but the fact of the matter is that there is a reconciliation process, and the reconciliation process does provide for a majority of the United States Senate to pass the health care bill.”
“It so happens, as you know, the majority of the Senate are Democrats,” said Hoyer. “So, under the rules of the United States Senate they can pass legislation with a majority. That’s not ramming something through with a majority. It is doing what democracy calls for.”
In March, Hoyer said: “Reconciliation on health care is a fallback position. It is not the preferred option. The preferred option is creating a bipartisan consensus."
When asked about the possible use of reconciliation by the Democrats to pass health care legislation, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said: "That would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through. You're talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You're talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River."
Inquiries to Hoyer’s office by CNSNews.com to clarify his position on reconciliation were not returned as this story went to press.