Wall Street Journal
In "National Health Care With 51 Votes" (op-ed, April 27), Republican Sen. John Sununu argues that a minority of 40 senators ought to stand in the way of the 45 million Americans without health insurance, and millions more struggling with skyrocketing health-care costs. He objects to the use of "budget reconciliation," which would prevent a filibuster and guarantee a fair, up-or-down vote on a health-care reform bill. According to Sen. Sununu, reconciliation "was created as a way to . . . curb spending, reduce deficits, and cut the debt."
But in reality, the tactic he decries has been used repeatedly by Republicans to cut taxes and increase our deficit. In fact, reconciliation was used to cut taxes in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2005. Sen. Sununu, for instance, supported a simple majority vote on the massive tax cut of 2003, one of the key policies that turned a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion under President Clinton into record deficits under President George W. Bush. Other Republicans, including House Republican Leader John Boehner and former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, found reconciliation perfectly acceptable when they were in the majority.
Passing health-care reform could do exactly what reconciliation was designed to do: reduce deficits and debt. According to the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan fiscal responsibility group, health-care reform "is integral to reining in the rapid growth of health-care costs, which is a major driver of deficits." Reconciliation won't be necessary if Republicans choose to work with us to reform health care. If they are serious about fiscal discipline, they will welcome the chance to get such exploding costs under control, while providing for the inclusion of all Americans in health-care coverage.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D., Md.)
Mr. Hoyer is majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.