How the United States Senate defines it

reconciliation bill – A bill containing changes in law recommended pursuant to reconciliation instructions in a budget resolution. If the instructions pertain to only one committee in a chamber, that committee reports the reconciliation bill. If the instructions pertain to more than one committee, the Budget Committee reports an omnibus reconciliation bill, but it may not make substantive changes in the recommendations of the other committees.

Next we go to C-SPAN, part of the media. Here is one definition given by the media

C-SPAN Congressional Glossary

Term Definition Used In
RECONCILIATION BILL A RECONCILIATION BILL makes the changes in law required to meet pre-set spending and revenue levels. The bill arises when a prior budget resolution passed by the House and Senate calls for it. The budget committee packages the bills produced by all the other committees into one omnibus bill. House & Senate

US Rep. Louise Slaughter, a scummy Democrat for what it is worth, issues as a matter of government standards, as standard, this definition for Reconciliation within the normal government context. It is a standard nonpartisan standing presentation.


“The 1981 reconciliation bill, which encompassed legislative language from thirteen different committees in response to savings instructions mandated by the Senate, produced a legislative result that would have been impossible to achieve if each committee had reported an individual bill on subject matter solely within its own jurisdiction. By using a procedure that permitted packaging of the savings, Congress was able to consider President Reagan’s economic program as a whole, resistant to the type of special interest pressures that would have scuttled the savings if they had been proposed in piecemeal fashion.”
– Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., then Senate Majority Leader (Winter, 1983) Created in a budget resolution in 1974 as part of the congressional budget process, the reconciliation process is utilized when Congress issues directives to legislate policy changes in mandatory spending (entitlements) or revenue programs (tax laws) to achieve the goals in spending and revenue contemplated by the budget resolution. First used in1980 this process was used at the end of a fiscal year to enact legislation to fine tune revenue and spending levels through legislation that could not be filibustered in the Senate. The policy changes brought about by this part of the budget process have served as constraints on the levels of mandatory spending and federal tax revenues which also has served since 1981 as a vehicle for deficit reduction. The reconciliation process is an optional procedure and not a required action by Congress every fiscal year as is passage of the concurrent budget resolution. However, during the eighteen year period from 1980 to 1998 thirteen reconciliation measures have been enacted into law and numerous others have been considered by Congress. Occasionally, reconciliation legislation has included certain such enforcement mechanisms as extensions of the discretionary spending limits and PAYGO requirements or even reforms to the budget process. Whether for tax reduction, tax increases, deficit reduction, mandatory spending increases or decreases or adjustments in the public debt limit, this process has been used to focus many agents on one goal.

After that continues the process of it all.

Fox News has a “your guide to the game” for the Reconciliation process. This places it in a historical context. What is interesting is that apparently Senator Harry Reid, his Democrat Senators and the US House legislators did not hit any of the hurdles or complications forecasted by this guide. The forecast is logical however, given that “Only ONE reconciliation bill has ever made it through this process CLEAN, that is, with no changes: the 2001 Bush tax cut package.” This follows that “If history is any guide, this bill will hit a trap, get changed, and then will immediately be sent back to the House… Indeed, former Senate Parliamentarian Bob Dove called reconciliation “a game,” and the winner is the side who knows the most about the rules.” This is a historical background for this practice, missing from what I’ve seen so far.

The entire process was created by the Budget Act of 1974; revisions and additions were made over the years; there are additional restrictions created by this fiscal year’s Budget Resolution Democrats created. The resolution opened the possibility of using reconciliation on both health care and the student loan overhaul. Reconciliation was originally intended for politically difficult deficit reduction measures – i.e., spending cuts &/or tax hikes. Short-handed, people refer to reconciliation measures as having to deal with dollars. Reconciliation has been used 22 times since it was created, a majority of that time by Republicans. All of this is reason for the very difficult rules process, outlined more below, so as to curb abuse of the process. Most specifically, the Byrd rule, named for the senator, was created in 1985 to try to keep senators from cramming a bunch of policy by that has no budgetary impact. The Byrd rule, quite simply, says the substance of any provisions in a reconciliation bill must be substantially weighted to THE BUDGET, and not to POLICY.

None of these emphases are mine so all are made by Trish Turner. The point is that the actual intent of this action in general, when it is altogether legal and proper that is, is that reconciliation is for budgets and nothing else! It is also important that if this was “clean” it would be only the second time since the Bush 43 tax cuts and if it came out clean without getting bounced around with much trouble it meant back room deals, not stuff written out in the open, on C-SPAN, as the President has promised us in 2008. On March 25th, the Senate’s reconciliation bill was passed and sent back to the House, as recorded by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] voted 56 to 43 [roll call] to pass a modified version of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 [HR 4872 materials] Thursday, after certain language in the original bill was altered to fix parliamentary problems highlighted by Republicans. The bill will now be sent back to the US House of Representatives [official website] for a final vote on the new language. Democratic leaders stated that the alterations, which involved student-lending legislation attached to health care bill, were minimal and should easily pass through the lower chamber. All Senate Republicans and three Democrats voted against the bill, but it still passed because budget reconciliation bills [Senate backgrounder] require only a simple majority, rather than the standard 60-member super-majority, to advance. The House vote is slated for Thursday evening.

US President Barack Obama signed the original bill into law on Tuesday after it was passed by the House [JURIST reports] by a vote of 219 – 212. He has since signed an executive order [text; JURIST report] continuing a prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortion [JURIST news archive] except in cases of rape or incest or where a woman’s life would be endangered, as part of a compromise with conservative Democrats.

So then we go forward to the modern reconciliation bill in question presented by Louise Slaughter on the US House of Representatives Rules Committee web site. I present

H.R. 4872 – Reconciliation Act of 2010

Meeting Time: 4:00pm Thursday 3/25

Text of the Senate Amendments to H.R. 4872

H. Rept. 111-458: Rule and Committee Report

I do not have the US Senate bill on hand. The Pittsburgh School of Law notes the US Senate vote as excerpted. Less than seven hours or so after the US Senate passed their bill,

The House voted 220-207 [roll call] to approve the bill.

The President signed the reconciliation bill into law on March 30th. The time-line is only significant because it was insisted that the lack of this law was killing people, with new deaths in the tens or hundred by the day.