Senate Democrats Negotiating Budget Proposal That Includes Reconciliation
Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday indicated that they have not reached an agreement on whether the budget proposal will include reconciliation instructions for health care reform, The Hill reports (Alarkon, The Hill, 4/21). However, Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that the issue of using budget reconciliation remains a point of contention for key lawmakers in reaching a compromise between the proposals passed by the Senate and the House. The House version includes budget reconciliation instructions but the Senate version does not (Drucker, Roll Call, 4/21).
House Democratic leadership, the Obama administration and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have all expressed support for using budget reconciliation for health care reform (Roll Call, 4/21). Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he would prefer the committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions include a budget reconciliation recommendation, adding, "I think the House was right to include that recommendation" (The Hill, 4/21).
According to The Hill, Democrats seemingly have enough votes to pass health care reform under budget reconciliation. That is because several centrist Democratic senators who, despite recently voting for an amendment that barred the use of budget reconciliation for a climate change bill, have indicated that they would approve a budget proposal with such instructions for health care reform. The centrist Democrats are Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Evan Bayh (Ind.) and Jon Tester (Mont.). Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said, "The fastest route to health care reform, the better," adding, "If that means supporting health care through reconciliation, I would."
Meanwhile, Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) remain undecided. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), who sponsored the climate change amendment, said, "Health care is every bit as complicated as climate change," adding, "The principles (for using reconciliation) are essentially the same."
The Hill reports that there still are several centrist Democrats who have said they will not support reconciliation for health care reform, suggesting that stronger legislation would come from a bipartisan approach (The Hill, 4/21). Conrad said, "I would say it's a challenge." He added, "It was never intended for this purpose, and I think there would be a lot of unintended consequences" (Roll Call, 4/21).