Could Reconciliation End the Health-Care Impasse?

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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sure, Harry Reid is taking things slow, but if health-care reform ever happens, Democrats are going to have to rally around the so-called "Plan B": Having the House pass the Senate's bill, with assurances from the Senate that changes to the bill — like getting rid of the "Cadillac tax" on expensive insurance plans — will be made through the budget reconciliation process. There's also the "pared-down" approach, but smart people say that wouldn't work, so for now, Plan B it is. Assuming that the House gets 218 Democrats onboard (which, despite some optimism from some congressmen, you absolutely shouldn't assume), the onus would be on the Senate to scrounge up a measly 50 votes (because Joe Biden can break a tie). Surely this is a threshold they can reach, right? Maybe!

Actually, it remains to be seen. Even if enough House Democrats could be convinced to go this route, Reid may be operating with a pretty slim margin in the Senate. According to Politico's head count, seven Democrats (and one Joe Lieberman) have expressed reservations with going the budget-reconciliation route, mostly because they feel that it would betray the will of the people, or because they prefer the piecemeal approach. For some, however, such professed uncertainty may be simple posturing. As The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn notes,

"[M]ost of the centrist senators complaining about reconciliation aren't ruling it out altogether: If you read their quotes carefully, you'll see most of them express concern but leave room to embrace reconciliation under certain conditions — if the process is 'transparent,' if the changes themselves are relatively narrow, and so on. It's exactly the kind of posturing you'd expect in a negotiation."


So that's where Plan B stands. But rest assured, at the risk of appearing completely ineffective, the Democrats will pass something at some point, even if it's Plan Z.

Nope, Still Not Dead [Treatment/New Republic]
Dem impasse on health bill continues [Politico]
House to Senate: We're Ready On Health Care If You Are [TPMDC]