What is "reconciliation"?

What is “reconciliation”?

And no, I don’t mean what happens when the guy and gal make up and have steamy, hot make-up sex.

I mean in Congress. I keep seeing references to “reconciliation” as part of the Congressional process, and how you can get things done through reconciliation without filibusters and stuff.

Please enlighten a befuddled Canuck. What is it?

It is the joining together of House and Senate versions of the same bill so that the two houses of Congress can vote on a bill with the same text, which is Constitutionally required.

No, there’s more to it than that, per the question in the OP.

It only happens under certain circumstances. The House and Senate usually vote on their own versions of a bill, and to get the bill passed, they have to combine the two bills in some way that it will pass both houses. Normally, that means going back to square one in the Senate, where the filibuster can come into play. However, if the changes to the bill affect only a budgeting resolution, then the bill can be voted on in the Senate straight-away. Debate is limited to something like 20 hours, so no unlimited debate (or filibuster).

Wikipedia explains it well.

Congress has a bevy of rules relating to the budgeting process, so I’m going to simplify a lot and leave various things out.

Back in the mid-1970s, Congress found that it was necessary to exempt certain budget bills from threats of filibuster by creating a special process known as reconciliation, which limits the amount of debate on those certain bills. If a tax bill or a bill that would change entitlement programs (like Medicare) is afforded protection under reconciliation, there is automatically only 20 hours of debate on the bill, followed by an up-or-down majority vote in the Senate. Reconciliation doesn’t really matter in the House, because there is no filibuster in the House.

It is somewhat onerous to establish reconciliation protections for a bill. Both the House and the Senate must pass a budget resolution (that doesn’t go to the President for signature, and does not have the effect of law) that agrees that certain budgetary policies need to be changed. (These budget resolutions are also protected from filibuster.) So it isn’t like the Senate Majority Leader can decide on his own that a bill cannot be filibustered, he has to get the Senate AND the House to agree to that.

The reconciliation process is really only for budget related matters. Originally, it was thought to be only for decreasing the deficit, but there has kind of been a tug-of-war over time that has somewhat eroded that rule. Matters of non-budget policies (for example, changing laws on gun control or whatever) are excluded from the reconciliation process.

Please note that Condescending Robot is wrong. He has mistaken reconciliation for the “conference” process, which is entirely different.

So it doesn’t involve hot, sweaty, man-on-man sex between Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid?

Thanks for the replies everyone. It’s still confusing, but at least I’ve got a handle on it now.


I will be sending you my doctor’s bill.

It’s just a rule, and could be changed. Both Houses of Congress, per the Constitution, can make their own rules. The wikipedia page explains the history, why it was introduced, and how it is often now used not in sync with the original intent. But I think both parties like it, so it’s probably here to stay, even if they bitch about when the other party does it.

Ravenman wins the best answer contest.

Reconciliation was created when Congress realized it needed an overall budget process to control spending. Instead of just spending the money through the appropriations process, it would write an overall budget to try to handle it. But not all spending is through the appropriations process. Other laws and policies affect how much money the government spends, for instance, entitlement programs like Medicare or Social Security that award money per person, based on need, regardless of how much is spent each year. So reconciliation is the process of changing laws, beyond the normal appropriations laws, to fit the budget goals. It may also involve revenue (tax increases).