The Jan. 9 news article “ Obama vetoes bill aimed at repealing health law ” repeated a commonly held misconception about the process used to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010: “To pass the Obamacare repeal bill, Republican lawmakers used the complex budget procedure known as reconciliation to avoid a filibuster in this case — the same procedure Democrats used to pass the bill in 2009 when they controlled both the House and Senate.” The Senate did not use the reconciliaton process to pass the ACA. The act, comprising 906 pages, is the basic comprehensive substance of Obamacare. It was passed on a bill that was filibustered, and a supermajority vote of 60 was required to end that filibuster (by invoking cloture under Senate Rule 22). It was signed by the president on March 23, 2010, and became Public Law 111-148.
A second bill, which was a reconciliation bill, was passed after that date to make a series of discrete budgetary changes in the ACA. That act, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, was signed by the president on March 30, 2010, and became Public Law 111-152. It comprises 54 pages, 42 of which dealt with health care. Like the reconciliation bill in 2010, the reconciliation bill that the president vetoed this month made discrete budgetary changes in existing law. That vetoed bill did not “repeal” Obamacare. It amended several of the law’s budgetary components while leaving the basic structure of the law in place.
The Democrats played by the rules in 2010 in overcoming a filibuster to first pass the ACA, and then using the reconciliation process to pass a second bill making strictly budgetary changes in existing law. T he Republicans played by the rules this time to likewise make budgetary changes in existing law.
Proper procedure in 2010, proper procedure now.
Alan Frumin, Bethesda
The writer was Senate p arliamentarian from 1977 to 2012.