I’m hoping for an apology.

Many liberals, including self-styled health care experts, told everyone who would listen that the health care bill could not be accomplished in reconciliation. Chris Matthews made a complete fool of himself browbeating Alan Grayson for even suggesting that reconciliation could be used to make fixes to the bill, chastising him for “playing to the netroots.” He was wrong, but he refuses to admit it.

Those who flipped and agreed with using reconciliation when it became the only way to finish off the health care bill said previously that all the elements would have to conform with the budget, meaning that some of the most important pieces of the policy – the insurance regulations – would have to be dropped. Here’s Nate Silver dismissing reconciliation as an “insidious myth”:

[The] overwhelming opinion among [process wonks] is that, although the public option might survive the reconciliation process, things like the ban on denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, the additional regulations on insurers, and the creation of the health insurance exchanges would almost certainly not. Plus, the bill would have to be deficit neutral over five years and would be subject to renewal every five years.

If your lone objective were to end up with something that you could call a public option, then yes — reconciliation offers some possibility of that. But I don’t see how you’re likely, on balance, to wind up with a better bill — losing the guaranteed issue provision alone would probably outweigh the inclusion of a public option.

Well, now we can take a look at the objective evidence of this, at least in part. There were changes to insurance regulations in the reconciliation bill. And now that the Senate parliamentarian has made all his rulings, we find out that – lo and behold – they all passed muster, as Jon Cohn notes.

Well, the Republicans followed through on their threat. And the parliamentarian did, in fact, throw out two passages from the bill. But the passages were about Pell Grants. All of the health care provisions stayed in […]

Among other things, this means that a provision extending some basic insurance regulations–like bans on lifetime caps–to all plans remains part of the reconciliation package. (The original Senate bill exempted some existing plans from the requirement.) It’s an important change and I, for one, feared it might not get through.

Those concerned about the safety of insurance regulations in a reconciliation bill were either unduly pessimistic or woefully misinformed. Basically, anything that scored, the parliamentarian kept in. And the insurance regulations scored.

Does this mean that every insurance regulation would have stayed in this bill, if the Congress tried to do the entire thing through reconciliation? Perhaps not. But there were ways around that too, the same ways that the Congress will deal with the two student loan-related provisions that got kicked out by the parliamentarian: take them up in future legislation before the enactment date. Most of the insurance regulations don’t kick in until 2013 or 2014. That’s a lot of must-pass appropriations bills away.

So the next time you hear a liberal like Nate Silver swear up and down that a procedural strategy aimed at a better bill might make things worse, hold out the possibility that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And if and when that’s proven, ask for an apology.

David Dayen

David Dayen