Updating my previous posts on past uses of reconciliation, a New York Times article this morning by Jackie Calmes has what appears to be the most complete breakdown of the two parties' use of reconciliation (updating Joshua Tucker's previous estimate).
Though there's no shortage of hypocrisy on this issue, the punchline is that most previous bills passed under reconciliation during periods in which Republicans controlled the Senate (emphasis added):
Sixteen of the 22 “reconciliation bills” that have made it through Congress were passed in the Senate when Republicans had majorities. Among them were the signature tax cuts of President George W. Bush, the 1996 overhaul of the welfare system, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage insurance policies and the Cobra program allowing people who leave a job to pay to keep the health coverage their employer provided (the “R” and “A” in Cobra stand for “reconciliation act”).
For additional context, see this NPR story by Julie Rovner documenting how most recent changes to the health care system have been passed using reconciliation:
[H]ealth care and reconciliation actually have a lengthy history. "In fact, the way in which virtually all of health reform, with very, very limited exceptions, has happened over the past 30 years has been the reconciliation process," says Sara Rosenbaum, who chairs the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University.
...[O]ver the past three decades, the number of major health financing measures that were NOT passed via budget reconciliation can be counted on one hand. And one of those — the 1988 Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act — was repealed the following year after a backlash by seniors who were asked to underwrite the measure themselves. So using the process to try to pass a health overhaul bill might not be easy. But it won't be unprecedented.
And here's a sidebar with a timeline:
For 30 years, major changes to health care laws have passed via the budget reconciliation process. Here are a few examples:
1982 — TEFRA: The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act first opened Medicare to HMOs
1986 — COBRA: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act allowed people who were laid off to keep their health coverage, and stopped hospitals from dumping ER patients unable to pay for their care
1987 — OBRA '87: Added nursing home protection rules to Medicare and Medicaid, created no-fault vaccine injury compensation program
1989 — OBRA '89: Overhauled doctor payment system for Medicare, created new federal agency on research and quality of care
1990 — OBRA '90: Added cancer screenings to Medicare, required providers to notify patients about advance directives and living wills, expanded Medicaid to all kids living below poverty level, required drug companies to provide discounts to Medicaid
1993 — OBRA '93: created federal vaccine funding for all children
1996 — Welfare Reform: Separated Medicaid from welfare
1997 — BBA: The Balanced Budget Act created the state-federal childrens' health program called CHIP
2005 — DRA: The Deficit Reduction Act reduced Medicaid spending, allowed parents of disabled children to buy into Medicaid
Update 2/25 9:36 PM: Politifact has slightly different numbers:
On Nov. 14, 2008, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service put out a report on reconciliation bills between 1981 and 2009. There have been 22 of them, including three that were vetoed by President Bill Clinton. It's been used for health insurance portability (COBRA), nursing home standards, expanded Medicaid eligibility, increases in the earned income tax credit, welfare reform, start-up of the state Children's Health Insurance Program, major tax cuts and student aid reform.
While some have tallied the Republican vs. Democratic report card on reconciliation based on the president in power at the time, we think it makes more sense to look at the party in power in Congress when the reconciliation procedure was initiated.
By our count, eight of the reconciliation bills were initiated by a Democratic-controlled Congress. The rest, 14, were done by a Republican-controlled Congress.
...Still, we think looking at all 22 reconciliation bills casts too wide a net. Many reconciliation bills were not even all that controversial, and enjoyed wide bipartisan support. But other ones have clearly involved policy decisions that otherwise would likely have failed. Only eight involved votes where the winning side had less than the supermajority threshold of 60 votes. One could argue those were the times when Congress got around the need for the standard 60 votes. But even among that smaller group, six of the eight came courtesy of a Republican-controlled Congress.