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GOP: Health Care Needs More Senate Votes Than Social Security, Medicare

August 21, 2009

Once upon a time - a time before the 2006 midterm elections consigned the GOP to minority status in Congress, a bill generally required 51 votes in the Senate to become law. But not content to rest on their record for filibusters in the 110th term, roadblock Republicans now insist even 60 votes aren't enough. But while Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) demand "75 to 80" votes to pass health care reform, it's worth remembering that virtually no major legislation - not Social Security, not Medicare, not the even more expensive Bush and Reagan tax cuts - ever met that "superfilibuster" hurdle.
Appearing on Fox News, Senator Hatch debuted the latest Republican talking point, redefining bipartisanship as near-unanimity:

"Well, we're talking about one sixth of the American economy. This is a pretty important thing. And I always look at bipartisan bills as somewhere between 75 and 80 votes, both Democrats and Republicans."

Of course, Republicans determined to sabotage a health care bill and its estimated $1 trillion plus, 10-year budget are trying to move the goalposts yet again on Democrats who may "go it alone." But as it turns out, not even the wildly popular Social Security and Medicare programs, which combined cost American taxpayers over $1 trillion this year, passed with 80 votes:

Recent history only confirms just how transparently cynical is the latest GOP posturing over the superfilibuster. As the table below makes clear, the days of overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress bringing some recalcitrant Republicans along for the passage of Social Security (1935) and Medicare (1965) are long gone. While some turncoat Democrats helped GOP Presidents Reagan and Bush sell their supply-side snake oil, the modern obstructionist Republican Party is determined to torpedo new Democratic presidents at all costs:

Back in the 1980's, conservative patron saint Ronald Reagan routinely turned to the reconciliation process to ramrod his budgets through Congress. Now, Senator Republicans are warning President Obama and his Democratic allies that using the 51 vote reconciliation process to pass health care legislation would constitute "a declaration of war."
As ever, RNC Chairman Michael Steele was off-message when it came to the new Republican talking point:

"You got the votes, Mr. President. Pass the bill!"

As presidents from Reagan and Bush to FDR and LBJ would have agreed, for once, Michael Steele is right.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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