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May 2009

Congress Approves Obama's 3.4 Trillion Budget Resolution, Creates a Reconciliation Process for Health Care

On April 29, Congressional lawmakers passed Obama’s new five-year $3.4 trillion spending plan.  According to the Washington Post, the budget resolution does not enact policy but instead establishes rules for most of the legislation that will be considered in upcoming months and sets limits for spending on most existing government programs.  Lawmakers’ additional initiatives can be considered so long as they do not increase the deficit.  The measure passed the House by a vote of 233 to 193 and the Senate 53 to 43.[1]

As part of the resolution—on the issue of health care—lawmakers have agreed to use a special budget procedure called reconciliation.  This will allow Obama to avoid the possibility of a Senate Republican filibuster of major health care reform legislation and means that health legislation could pass the Senate with only 51 votes instead of the usual 60—so long as key committees produce health legislation by October 15.  Democrats are planning to begin their markups in June and have said that they would much prefer to move health legislation forward without using reconciliation, in the hopes of achieving broader support for national health care reform.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) insists that he will produce a bipartisan bill long before the October deadline and House Democratic leaders have vowed that they intend to pass a health reform bill by August recess. [2]



[1] Montgomery, L. Congress Approves Obama’s $3.4 Trillion Spending Blueprint, The Washington Post, April 30, 2009; Rogers, D. Budget Plan Boosts Health Care, Politico, April 29, 2009.
[2] Ibid.