Bingaman endorses prospect of reconciliation

BINGAMAN ENDORSES PROSPECT OF RECONCILIATION…. Of all the members of the Finance Committee’s Gang of Six, Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico seems to be saying the least. While we’ve heard plenty of erratic and antagonistic remarks from the likes of Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi, Bingaman has kept an extremely low profile.

Ryan Grim reports that Bingaman raised a few eyebrows when he conceded he would support using reconciliation, if necessary, to pass health care reform.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico has been one of three Democrats participating in the widely-watched Finance Committee negotiations. His willingness to consider reconciliation is another sign that a genuine bipartisan deal may be impossible.

“We made a provision in the budget resolution [earlier this year] that it could be used to try to enact health care provisions related to health care reform,” Bingaman said. “There are restrictions to what you can include in that…but I would support it if that’s the only way.”

Non-budget-related items typically can’t be passed using reconciliation, but Democrats are eying ways that would allow them to include those provisions, as well. Reconciliation would be a difficult legislative path to walk, but it raises pressure on Republicans who are considering supporting the Democratic effort. If Democrats go it alone, those Republicans, such as Maine’s Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins, would be left out of the process.

Bingaman’s support of reconciliation was first reported by the New Mexico Independent and can be seen at the one hour mark here.

In the larger context, Bingaman’s comments point to more trouble for the Gang of Six talks. Last week, two of the three Republicans in the group said they’re prepared to vote against their own compromise if their party disapproves of it. This week, one of the Democrats reiterated his support for a public option, and another signaled his support for reconciliation if/when Gang of Six negotiations fail.