Historical footnote

Question for all those claiming that it would be an outrage to use the budget reconciliation process to legislate about health insurance: what do you think COBRA stands for?

… for those now claiming that doing health insurance reform through the budget reconciliation process would be unprecedented:

COBRA, the law under which employees who leave their jobs can keep their health insurance, is an acronym. It originally stood for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. (That’s right: it was signed by Ronald Reagan.)

There’s a new twist on using reconciliation to pass a bill. Anything not budget-relevant can’t be done under reconciliation procedures without a 60-vote majority, the same as needed for the cloture motion that shuts off a filibuster. In this case, the 60 votes would be needed to waive the Byrd Amendment. But most of the hard stuff in the bill is directly budget-relevant. The stuff that isn’t budgetary – most of all, forbidding health insurers to exclude pre-existing conditions – is pretty hard to vote against. So some Senators who wouldn’t want to vote for cloture, and might even vote against the bill as a whole, might still vote for the Byrd Amendment waivers.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com