Budget Reconciliation Through the Years

Posted January 9, 2015 at 6:36pm

Congress has employed budget reconciliation to enact dozens of laws, addressing issues that range from tax cuts to student loans.

Here are some of the most notable uses in recent history:

Health care: Reconciliation was used to enact a portion of the 2010 health care law, which is why it’s housed under two different statutes (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). After a version of the health care bill was passed by the Senate, the House was encouraged by its leaders to pass the legislation and use a separate reconciliation bill to make changes to the Senate-passed version, making it more palatable to lawmakers. Reconciliation was “just a safety valve, in case the bill didn’t come to pass,” said G. William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It turned out to be an advantage.”

Student loans: In 2007, legislation to revamp student loan financing rules became law through reconciliation in an effort to make college more affordable. It was one of the first issues with a limited budgetary purpose to be passed by such a process.

Tax cuts: Several of the George W. Bush administration’s tax cuts were pushed through Congress using reconciliation. But because of the procedural rules restricting a bill’s impact on the deficit, the cuts were set to expire after 10 years. Other tax-cutting measures were passed with the same process; some were paired with spending reduction bills, while others were not.

Budgets: The most common use of reconciliation has historically been to pass omnibus budget bills through Congress, 10 of which have become law since 1980.