MEMO: Senate GOP Opposition to COVID Relief Bill that Helps Families is Hypocritical
To: Interested Parties
From: Accountable Senate War Room
Date: February 5, 2021
Re: Senate Republican Opposition to COVID Relief Bill that Helps Families is Hypocritical When They Supported Using the Same Process to Repeal Health Care and Pass Tax Cuts for the Rich
After a year of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, families and communities across the country are in desperate need of relief from Congress — including direct aid to families, more funding for testing and vaccination distribution, and aid to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers and first responders. It’s why a bipartisan majority supports President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Instead of working with President Biden to get Americans the life-saving aid they so desperately need now, Republicans are turning to hypocritical process arguments over “budget reconciliation,” a process allowing the Senate to pass a measure with a simple majority rather than 60 votes to break a filibuster, to oppose and slow down the critical relief. When it came to taking away your health care or cutting taxes for the rich and big corporations, Senate Republicans thought using the budget reconciliation process was appropriate. It is only when the Biden administration and Senate Democrats are trying to help working families struggling in the pandemic that it becomes problematic for them.
The memo below will lay out recent hypocrisy from GOP members on the reconciliation process, provide some background on their motivations, and highlight the clear case for Congress to move quickly to deliver relief.
Senate Republicans Were Fine Using Budget Reconciliation to Take Away Health Care and Pass Tax Cuts for the Rich and Big Corporations
Republicans Used Reconciliation For All of Their Major Policy Efforts Under Trump That Hurt American Families
In the first two years of the Trump administration, when Republicans held a slim majority in the Senate, then-Majority Leader McConnell and his caucus had no problem using reconciliation to push through their agenda, even when it actively hurt the American people. Trump’s two major legislative efforts, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the failed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, were both done through reconciliation without McConnell even attempting to work with his Democratic colleagues on a bipartisan solution. In fact, McConnell was already signalling the use of reconciliation in late 2016, before the new Congress even began. McConnell and Senate Republicans claimed there was nothing wrong with using the reconciliation process to jam through a massive tax cut for corporations by party line vote, claiming it was in “regular order.”
- Senator McConnell Described Following The Reconciliation Process As “Regular Order” Against Objections. “BAIER: You know, Senator Manchin paints it differently. And he suggested this weekend that it’s really you who didn’t want them engaged in this tax bill. Take a listen. (MANCHIN ON VIDEO CLIP): I gave them a whole litany of things that I thought 10 or more Democrats would vote for, to have it 60 or 65 votes. I really believe it’s possible if you have regular order. Once Mitch McConnell has decided that 51 votes was all he was needed and that they were going to be Republicans and make it political, that’s exactly what happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) BAIER: Is he right? MCCONNELL: Well, no, we did follow regular order. Reconciliation is regular order. They used it for Obamacare.” [Fox News, 12/19/17]
- Senator McConnell Defended Tax Bill Process, Saying That “We Didn’t Do Anything You Could Call A Foul On Process.” “JOHN DICKERSON: So this looks like a situation when you’re in the minority you like the process but when you’re in the majority you move on. MITCH MCCONNELL: Not true. We followed the regular order. There were multiple hearings. The Democrats were there. Days of hearings. Days of amendments. The Democrats offered amendments in committee ad nauseam. The process on the floor, the reconciliation process, is regular order. That’s how they passed Obamacare. It’s — we didn’t do anything that you could call a foul on process.” [CBS News, 12/2/17]
- Senator Murkowski Argued Use Of Reconciliation In Tax Cut Bill Came From “Regular Order Process.” ‘Murkowski: I happen to believe that the tax reform title will help our families keep more of their hard earned dollars. I think it will make American businesses more competitive. … I think it’s important to recognize this is not something that just appeared. Our title is the result of a regular order process here in the Senate, and it will include a regular order environmental process, with laws like NEPA all fully applied, after we pass it.’ [Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski, Press Release, 11/30/17]
- Senator John Cornyn Claimed Tax Bill Was “Done Through The Regular Legislative Process.” “STEPHANOPOULOS: It looks like the Democrats are not going to be there on the tax bill. And back in 2010, when Republicans did not vote along with Obamacare, you warned the Democrats against passing the Obamacare on a party line vote in reconciliation. […] Are you concerned that history might repeat itself in 2018? CORNYN: Well, we did pick up seven seats, as I recall, in 2010 following the jamming through of Obamacare. But this was done through the regular legislative process, mark-up in the Finance Committee and on the floor of the United States Senate. As I said, our Democratic colleagues had every chance to participate and simply refused.” [ABC News, 12/17/17]
- In 2017, Senator Thune Defended Usage Of Reconciliation For Tax Bill, Saying It Was The Only Realistic Path. “Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican, told me on Tuesday. ‘So each individual senator is very empowered when it comes to a big issue like this, and as we’ve seen a couple times, it’s very easy to take a big bill like this down.’ Still, Thune suggested Republicans realistically had no other choice. ‘I don’t know how you do it without reconciliation, because then you’d have to get 60 votes,’ he said.” [The Atlantic, 9/27/17]
- 2017: Portman Said He Thought It Would Probably Be “Necessary” To Use Reconciliation To Pass GOP Tax Reform. “Portman: The reality is that the code is inefficient. It’s antiquated. It’s a great opportunity. Timing will depend on a couple things. One, I think having a budget done, which usually happens in the April/May time frame. You have a process – you talked about before on the show – called reconciliation, where with fewer than 60 votes you can get it done with a majority vote. I think that’ll probably be necessary, honestly, to get the kind of tax reform done that we’re looking at: pro-growth, pro-jobs tax reform.” [CNBC, 2/8/17]
- January 2017: Senators Cruz, Rubio, And Lee Wrote Letter With Affirming Support For Repealing Obamacare Via Reconciliation. “Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, and Marco Rubio of Florida are reaffirming their support for repealing Obamacare using reconciliation this year, but are calling on Senate leaders to craft a bill that goes further than previous legislation passed in 2015. ‘The American people have given Republicans an historic opportunity to repeal Obamacare,’ the trio of Republicans wrote in a letter sent Tuesday. ‘They have delivered majorities to both chambers of Congress and elected a Republican president who has promised to make this a priority from day one.’” [Western Free Press, 1/4/17]
- Senator Bill Cassidy Argued Use Of Reconciliation Process For Health Care Efforts In 2017 Did Not Count As Partisan. “Bill Cassidy: We had a very short period of time to bring it to date, before the September 30th deadline ran out. There’s a couple of senators who wished to have committee hearings. Well, still, we will have those now. That will be the process, but we can`t use this reconciliation bill of 2018 because that is dedicated to tax. If we’re able to do it, it would be using a 2019 reconciliation bill, which would be next year. At that time, hopefully, a chance to go through the process allaying the concerns of at least a couple folks who are concerned about the process. Chuck Todd: Senator, why go down this reconciliation process? I mean, it seems like it’s politically perilous and that it will never be accepted law of the land by both parties. Cassidy: I will say that the Graham-Cassidy bill is far better for states like Virginia, Missouri, Maine, Florida — I could go down a few others — represented by Democratic senators. So it’s not a partisan, in that sense, bill.” [MSNBC, 10/18/17]
- 2017: Asked If Reconciliation Was Shutting Door On Bipartisan Cooperation, Senator Mike Rounds Argued Democrats Were Welcome To Vote For An ACA Repeal Package. “Chuck Todd: ‘Senator, you haven’t opened the door. Reconciliation — when you made the decision to do a reconciliation, you made this — that`s shutting the door. That wasn’t an invitation to work with you. Mike Rounds: Well, not necessarily. What it is is it says we`re going to get it done. A lot of what Obamacare did was through reconciliation as well. But that doesn’t mean that we can`t – and, once again, you can pass reconciliation with 75 votes but you only need 51. So, if there was an interest in putting something together, I think that would still be available. I think it would still be on the table. We’d love to see it. But we have to be practical as well. They’d like to – they’d like to see us try and do it. And then, they think if we`re not successful, they’ve won politically. But, second of all, then they could step in.” [MSNBC, 6/28/17]
Not only does this further underscore the hypocrisy demonstrated by Republican senators, but both of these efforts were against the interests of working families. Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have kicked 32 million Americans off of their health insurance. The GOP tax cut gave a massive, permanent tax cut to corporations while adding nearly $2 trillion to the deficit. Now, when American families need help more than ever before, these same Republicans are making bad-faith complaints about process, preventing Americans from receiving life-saving COVID-19 aid.
Senate Republicans Love to Use Budget Reconciliation to Pass Tax Cuts for the Rich
Republicans have used reconciliation to pass their unpopular agendas going back decades. In 2001, Republicans in Congress used reconciliation to pass the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act — the Bush tax cuts for the rich and big corporations — to override any filibustering attempts from Democrats given Republican’s narrow majority. Again, in 2003, Republicans again used reconciliation to pass the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, another round of tax cuts for the wealthy.
Senate Republicans Are Objecting Now When the Legislation Will Help People
Republican Objections to Process Are Only to Distract From Preventing Relief to the American People
The American people are clamoring for more relief from Congress. The American Rescue Plan will: expand a national vaccination program to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to safely reopen schools; deliver immediate relief to working families by getting cash in their pockets; and provide relief to some of the most hard hit communities and small businesses and protect the jobs of first responders, transit workers, and other essential workers. Across party lines, there is wide support for President Biden’s policies. The American people want Congress to act to get schools adequate funding to resume safe, in-person learning, to get people back to work safely, and to provide state and local governments the necessary aid to help their communities get back on their feet. Republicans are decrying the process of reconciliation because they are trying to distract from the fact that they don’t want to provide more relief to their constituents.
Congress Can’t Allow Hypocrisy of Republican Senators to Delay Critically-Needed Relief
Our country is facing historic levels of sickness, death, unemployment, and poverty as a result of COVID-19. Congress can’t allow a minority of members to hypocritically obstruct the speedy delivery of support to the American people who are struggling to keep their heads above water. In 2009, Congress delivered far too little relief to families in the Great Recession, and workers, families, and the economy paid the price of a weak recovery for far too long. They should not make this mistake again. There is strong and bipartisan support for robust relief, and these hypocritical process arguments cannot be allowed to delay or obstruct the relief and recovery investments we need.