In his Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove attacked the idea of using the budget reconciliation process to pass health care reform with a simple majority of Senate votes, referring to the procedure as a "parliamentary trick." But as a senior adviser in the Bush White House, Rove supported the use of reconciliation to pass major Bush administration initiatives.
Rove criticizes possible use of "parliamentary tricks to pass a bill in the Senate with 51 votes"
From Rove's September 3 Wall Street Journal column, "Obama and the Perfect Political Storm":
Given the Democratic congressional margins, Mr. Obama has the votes to [pass health care reform legislation], but at huge costs to him and his party. Legislation that looks anything like the bill moving through the House will contain deeply unpopular provisions -- including massive deficit spending, tax hikes and Medicare cuts -- and create enormous ill will on Capitol Hill. This will be especially true if Democrats rely on parliamentary tricks to pass a bill in the Senate with 51 votes. The public's reaction in August showed that the president is creating the conditions for a revolt against his party in the 2010 elections.
But Rove supported use of reconciliation to pass Bush initiatives
In CNN interview, Rove said it was "up to the Senate to decide" whether to use reconciliation to pass 2001 tax cut legislation. From the March 3, 2001, edition of CNN's Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields (accessed from the Nexis database):
AL HUNT (co-host): Assuming the House passes it next week, which practically everyone does, and it goes to the Senate -- you are the leading White House strategist -- is it your assumption that this tax cut bill can pass the Senate as a stand-alone measure perhaps garnering 60 or more votes? Or is going to have to become part of the budget package, so- called reconciliation, which means it may not pass until May?
ROVE: Well, the Senate operates on a different calendar than the House, and we don't anticipate that the tax cut will be taken up and considered until much later in the spring. And exactly what forms it takes, whether it's a stand-alone bill or passes as part of the budget process, that's up to the Senate to decide. But we're confident that it will receive the necessary votes to pass the Senate.
Rove reportedly advocated including repeal of estate tax in 2001 reconciliation bill. The National Journal's Congress Daily reported (from Nexis):
Rove also indicated the White House would work to move estate tax repeal within the reconciliation package. "We ought to do everything we can within the confines of" the amount of money available for tax reduction "to kill the death tax," he said. However, he noted "it's going to be difficult to do" given the limits on tax cuts allowed under the budget reconciliation bills. But he said Congress could "stretch it out" and added, "There ought to be some concern about capital gains". [Congress Daily, 5/04/01]
Meeting with business lobbyists, Rove reportedly hinted at White House plan to move 2003 tax cuts under reconciliation. Congress Daily reported at the time (from Nexis):
[W]ith moderate Democrats -- and even some Republicans -- who provided the margin of victory for Bush's 2001 tax cut now openly questioning provisions of the [economic] growth package, reconciliation may offer Bush the only chance to get the bill through the Senate.
Senior Bush advisers who briefed a large group of business lobbyists Friday at the White House left the strong impression that the decision had been made to move the package under reconciliation, according to sources knowledgeable about the gathering. The Bush aides -- senior White House political adviser Karl Rove and National Economic Council Director Stephen Friedman -- also pinpointed Memorial Day as the target date for passage [Congress Daily, 1/13/03].
GOP senators' about-face on reconciliation often absent from media reports
Media have frequently quoted Republicans' criticism of reconciliation without noting their past support for the tactic. Media Matters for America has documented a pattern of journalists uncritically quoting Republican senators criticizing the decision to use reconciliation, without noting that those same senators -- including Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) -- voted to allow the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass legislation during the Bush administration, including tax cuts.