Lawrence O'Donnell was co-hosting, and O'Donnell wanted to talk about the problems with using budget reconciliation. And so we did. I think he's probably right about the problems of using reconciliation for health care policy, but he's underplaying its importance as a threat. It makes a bipartisan bill more, not less, likely. I make this point a bit fuzzily on the program, but think of it like this: A legislative process has two basic outcomes. Bill or no bill. The majority wants bill. The minority wants no bill. And the Senate, as an institution, is built to favor the no bill position.
Reconciliation introduces a third outcome. It's a quasi-bill. No one knows what the Senate parliamentarian will leave in it. This is an outcome that, fundamentally, no one wants. It's worse for the majority than a bill they've written and worse for the minority than a bill they've killed. But it closes off the normal exit: There's no longer hope of an outcome that's good for only one side. Either you get a bill that everyone likes or that no one is sure they'll like. The best outcome, for both sides, becomes a bipartisan piece of legislation.
My big takeaway from this segment, incidentally, is that it's hard to talk about budget process in four minutes. For a more coherent explanation of these issues, read my reconciliation primer.
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