At her Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee Kathleen Sebelius said that she was open to a fast tracking strategy for pushing through pending health reform legislation. Her remarks have sparked debate among legislators and policymakers about the pros and cons of accelerating the process.
The fast tracking strategy, also known as "reconciliation" would in effect prevent Republicans from stalling a number of health reforms and tax increases introduced by President Obama and Democrats in Congress. Opponents of using fast tracking are worried about undermining future bipartisan efforts. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) believes it could have a polarizing effort on members of Congress.
The Washington Post reports that advocates defend reconciliation as a legitimate tool used more often by Republicans in recent years, for example, to pass President George W. Bush's tax cuts. However, President Bill Clinton also used reconciliation to pass welfare reform and the children's health insurance program, SCHIP. "Why are they so afraid?" asked Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). "Reconciliation is a rule allowed by the Senate."