NPR today, engaging in a shameless act of journalism, gives us some context on just how crazy and unprecedented it would be for Democrats to use the budget reconciliation process to enact changes to a piece of health-care legislation that has passed both houses of Congress (provided they can get the House to pass the Senate's version of health-care reform, this is the strategy Democrats will probably pursue to improve on the Senate's bill). Republicans are shocked, shocked that their opponents would contemplate such a thing -- after all, it's one thing to pass enormous tax cuts aimed at the wealthy through reconciliation, as they did when George W. Bush was president -- but it's something else to use the same majority-rule process for health care!
But actually it isn't. As NPR's chart shows, health-care changes have been made through reconciliation plenty of times before, most notably with the creation of COBRA, the program that allows you to stay on your old employer's health plan after you leave your job. COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which was the piece of legislation under which it was created in 1985.
Just one more thing to keep in mind when Republicans start heading for the fainting couch when the topic of reconciliation comes up.
-- Paul Waldman