Congressional Democrats Reach Final Agreement That Includes Reconciliation To Prevent Republican Filibuster of Health Reform
Budget conference committee negotiators on Monday reached an agreement on a $3.5 trillion fiscal year 2010 budget resolution that includes budget reconciliation as a means of passing health reform legislation, CQ Today reports (Krawzak/Clarke, CQ Today, 4/27). Under the agreement, Congress would have until Oct. 15 to pass deficit-neutral health care reform legislation. If no measure is passed, deficit-neutral health care overhaul legislation could be attached to the budget reconciliation bill (Rowland, Washington Times, 4/28).
Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that it is unlikely reconciliation will be needed to advance health care reform legislation (Krawzak/Clarke, CQ Today, 4/27). Conrad said that he "sincerely" believes Democrats will use reconciliation only as a last resort (Washington Times, 4/28). He added, "It is there as an insurance policy." However, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said, "'Gun' would be more accurate than 'insurance policy'" (Krawzak/Clarke, CQ Today, 4/27). Gregg said, "I fully agree that the U.S. health care system needs significant overhaul, but using the budget reconciliation process is not a constructive way to accomplish it." He added that "reconciliation would completely shut out the minority from having any input whatsoever."
House Budget Committee Chair John Spratt (D-S.C.) said reconciliation "serves as a fallback position if negotiations" on health care get bogged down (Sanchez, CongressDaily, 4/27). Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Friday said, "We don't have to use [reconciliation] if we work together. Even if it's in the budget, it doesn't have to be used" (Young , The Hill, 4/27). However, the inclusion of reconciliation in the resolution -- regardless of whether it is used -- "hurt[s] the chances of a bipartisan health care overhaul," according to CQ Today (Wayne, CQ Today, 4/27).
The House Rules Committee on Monday approved a procedural rule that allows the House to vote on the compromise bill on Tuesday, setting it up for Senate approval on Wednesday, President Obama's 100th day in office (Krawzak/Clarke, CQ Today, 4/27). Obama next week is scheduled to release additional details of his budget proposal, which will be followed by mark ups of appropriations bills by the Senate and House appropriations committees (Rogers, Politico, 4/27).
Reid Calls for Bipartisan Efforts on Health Care
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on congressional Republicans to help craft bipartisan health care reform legislation. He wrote, "Make no mistake -- we are determined to reform health care this year," adding, "Our strong preference is to do so by working alongside you and your caucus" (CongressDaily, 4/27). Reid wrote, "In order for this bipartisan process to take root, Republicans must demonstrate a sincere interest in legislating," adding, "Rather than just saying no, you must be willing to offer concrete and constructive proposals. We cannot afford more of the obstructionist tactics that have denied or delayed Congress' efforts to address so many of the critical challenges facing this nation" (Young , The Hill, 4/27).