Mar 04 2010

Sen. Richard Shelby vows to fight Obama proposal to bypass Senate filibuster rules to pass health care reform

By The Huntsville Times staff

President Obama signaled today that he'd like the Senate to invoke a little-used procedure called "reconciliation" to pass a health care reform bill without the normally required 60-vote super-majority to stop a filibuster, and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is among the Republicans vowing to fight it.

In a speech at the White House, Obama told an audience of medical professionals today that Congress "owes the American people a final vote on health-care reform," according to The Washington Post.

Obama did not mention the reconciliation procedure by name, The Washington Post said, but said the legislation now stalled in Congress "deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed and both Bush tax cuts -- all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority."

The Washington Post reported that programs Obama mentioned were passed under reconciliation rules, which would enable the Senate to approve a health-care overhaul with a simple majority, rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Republicans have vowed to fight the maneuver.

Shelby this afternoon released the following statement about the proposed use of reconciliation to pass health-care reform:

"If the majority truly had the support of the American people and their representatives in Washington, then reconciliation would be unnecessary.  The message from Democrats to the American people is clear: Government knows best. The Democrats are determined to force government-run health care upon the American people regardless of whether they want or need it.

"Reconciliation is intended for important budgetary items, not legislation to overhaul one-sixth of our economy.  In pursuing this course, the Democrats would establish a precedent for future partisan majorities to eliminate thoughtful debate and pass reckless and partisan legislation by any means necessary. Should this legislation pass, especially by these means, it will be a day our country will long regret."