Liberals are quick to tell you that reconciliation has been used by both parties and so therefore we just need "to quit crying" about it, however, it's never been used quite like this:
Democrats often point to welfare reform in 1996 as a reconciliation precedent, yet that bill passed the Senate with 78 votes, including Joe Biden and half of the Democratic caucus. The children's health insurance program in 1997 was steered through Congress with reconciliation, but it, too, was built on strong (if misguided) bipartisan support. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that created Schip passed 85-15, including 43 Republicans. Even President Bush's 2001 tax cuts, another case in reconciliation point, were endorsed by 12 Senate Democrats.
The only precedent within historical shouting distance is Ronald Reagan's 1981 budget, which was controversial because it reshaped dozens of programs. But the Senate wasn't the problem—it ultimately passed the budget 80 to 14. The real dogfight was in the Democratically controlled House, where majority rules have always obtained, yet Reagan convinced 29 Democrats to buck Speaker Tip O'Neill. Reconciliation, in other words, wasn't used to subvert the 60-vote Senate threshold, but rather to grease the way for deficit reduction.
In other words, it's never been quite along party lines like this bill has been. The only reason reconciliation is in play here is because Democrats can't get it through any other way and can't garner enough public support for it. The public has been clear that they don't want this bill.
What reconciliation is going to do in this case is to force through changes to the Senate version of the bill so that the House will then vote for it. Otherwise, the House would never support the Senate version of the bill and we'd be back to square one.
The WSJ calls it an "abuse of power." Obama says tough luck (emphasis added):
The goal is to permanently expand the American entitlement state with a vast apparatus of subsidies and regulations while the political window is still (barely) open, regardless of the consequences or the overwhelming popular condemnation. As Mr. Obama fatalistically said after his health summit, if voters don't like it, "then that's what elections are for."
You bet they are. And we'll remember that advice, Mr. President.