Reconciliation gets a deadline

RECONCILIATION GETS A DEADLINE…. It looks like health care reform just got quite a bit more likely.

The Hill reported this afternoon, “Democrats in Congress and the White House have struck a tentative budget deal that includes reconciliation instructions that will make it easier to push through healthcare reform this year.”

Jonathan Cohn, citing Hill staffers, fleshes out the details.

It’s been in the works for a while and now, according to senior Capitol Hill staffers, it’s a done deal: The final budget resolution will include a “reconciliation instruction” for health care. That means the Democrats can pass health care reform with just fifty votes, instead of the sixty it takes to break a filibuster.

The deal was hatched late afternoon and last night, in a five-hour negotiating session at the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. A trio of White House officials were there: Rahm Emanuel, Peter Orszag, and Phil Schiliro. Also present, along with Reid, were House Budget Chairman John Spratt and Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad.

The reconciliation instruction specifies a date. That date, according to one congressional staffer, is October 15.

So, lawmakers in both parties who’ve said they want to see some bipartisan cooperation on health care will, apparently, get their chance. In fact, they’ll have six months to work out a bill that enjoys broad support.

And if they can’t reach a deal by October 15? At that point, according to Cohn’s report, the Democratic majority can vote on a bill that Republicans won’t be able to filibuster.

The Washington Post has more, noting, “Democrats contend they only want to use reconciliation as a fallback option and would prefer to move health care through the regular order. Republicans are highly skeptical the fast-track process won’t be used if available.”

And Jason Rosenbaum helps highlight the bottom line: “[T]he GOP has a choice: They can work with Democrats in good faith (something they have declined to do so far), or they can be ignored as Democrats pass the health reform this country so desperately needs with a simple majority vote in the Senate. Either way, progressives won a victory last night, and we’re one step closer to winning quality, affordable health care for all.”

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