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Budget Reconciliation: We Have to Pass the Bill to Find Out What's in It

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AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Back in March 2010, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said out loud what most Democrats would only say in their own heads. In referencing a massive takeover of America’s health care system, also known as Obamacare, Speaker Pelosi suggested the House pass the bill so we could all find out what was in it.


History certainly does repeat itself. More than a decade later, House Democrats are attempting to ram through a 10,000-page $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill without really knowing what's in it. And how could they? This massive partisan bill changes every day.

Take, for example, the immigration policy contained in the bill. Over the weekend, the Senate parliamentarian blocked a provision in the bill that would have granted amnesty to at least 8 million illegal immigrants, since it was a “policy change that substantially outweighs the budget impact of that change.” Rest assured, Democrat leaders are already hatching a Plan B to include a different backdoor amnesty. Will this Plan B be debated before the House and Senate floor for the American people to witness? Doubtful.

How about some of the health care related provisions? Last week, Democratic House Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Scott Peters of California and Kathleen Rice of New York joined all Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce committee in defeating a drug pricing provision in the bill that would have allowed the government to directly negotiate prices with drugmakers. But don’t worry, Speaker Pelosi will find a way to put it back in or add another similar policy provision. Her office had this to say after the provision was defeated: “Work continues between the House, Senate, and White House on the final bill.”


And it’s not just the constant changes that keep viewers guessing what’s in the bill. New provisions are seemingly discovered every week. On Monday, a small provision was uncovered that allows for an income tax deduction of union dues up to $250 per year, per person. In true partisan fashion, only union members who support the union boss’ political activity would be eligible for the deduction. Workers who voluntarily quit their union but still pay a union fee could not get the tax write off.

And what about the actual cost of the bill? For the last few months, Democrats have been claiming the bill would cost $3.5 trillion, but members and staff closer to the process know the true cost is closer to $4.5 trillion – a figure scholars at the Texas Public Policy Foundation claimed months ago. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to score it. 

The bill contains provisions sure to erode its popularity, even among Democrat House members, such as 75,000 new IRS agents, corporate tax hikes that are higher than those of foreign hostile countries like China, the creation of a Civilian Climate Corp army dedicated to enacting the left-wing climate agenda, gutting work requirements for welfare, and much more.


While most members of Congress haven’t read the bill—and indeed it would be nearly impossible to read it—it’s time for Democrat lawmakers heed the advice of Sen. Joe Manchin and hit the “strategic pause” button. The more lawmakers read the bill, the more they – and more importantly the American people—dislike what they find.

Wes Coopersmith is Director of Federal Affairs for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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