December 14th, 2009
06:30 PM ET
9 months ago

Updated: WH, Senate Dems: No plans to use 'reconciliation' for health care

Updated 6:30 pm ET: Earlier today, two sources - one White House and one Senate - indicated White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had suggested to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the possibility of using budget reconciliation to pass health care. Both sources now tell CNN that Emanuel did not make that suggestion. One of the sources said there had been some recent White House interest in using the reconciliation process. However, the source acknowledged that the idea now appears to be a non-starter. Reid has said he opposes using the legislative maneuver.

Washington (CNN) – As the White House rushes to the finish on health care reform, fissures on the best way to get there are developing between the White House and Senate Democrats.

Two sources have told CNN that White House Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to use the budget process known as reconciliation to push through health reform – and that Reid has rejected that request.

The procedure, which can only be used on budget measures, would allow Senate Democrats to bypass the 60-vote threshold required to end debate on the current bill, and pass the proposal by a simple majority – but would require major changes to the legislation.

Reid’s resistance, said the sources, stemmed from concern that adoption of the strategy would spark major political pushback from Democrats facing re-election next year.

The source said the administration has also been pressing Reid to assuage concerns from Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman – the potentially crucial 60th Senate vote - by dropping a compromise plan that would have allowed individuals to buy in to Medicare at age 55. Lieberman said Sunday that he would not support any bill that included that measure. He has also stressed that he will not support any kind of public health care option, or a trigger that could result in additional public health care options in the future if certain coverage goals are not met.

It’s a dilemma for Senate vote-counters. Liberal senators have been “very flexible,” according to a Democratic source - but it’s unclear if dropping the option from the bill might cost the party their support. One option being considered by the White House has been to return to the trigger idea supported by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. Gaining her vote, and securing the support of conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, might enable the party to work around Lieberman.

Senate Democrats are slated to meet again at 5:30 this afternoon.

–CNN's Dana Bash, Gloria Borger and Candy Crowley contributed to this report.


Filed under: Health care • Senate Democrats • White House
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. Robin in Tampa, FL

    At this point the trigger option looks pretty good ... at least they will get Snow and Collins on board.

    December 14, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  2. Right wingnuts are as dumb as a woonsocket

    Sadly, if this does not get done, the democrats are toast in 2010.

    December 14, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  3. Right wingnuts are as dumb as a woonsocket

    In a democracy, 50 votes plus the vice president's vote should be what it takes.

    December 14, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. Right wingnuts are as dumb as a woonsocket

    The republicans got their three tax cuts for the wealthy through reconciliation during the Bush years.

    December 14, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. Mark

    Polls show Americans do not want the bill as it currently is. Moderate democrats don't even want the bill as is but yet the socialist Obama administration wants to force it upon the public. Unfortunately the liberal idiots that support the bill won't admit to it when they get their insurance premium.

    December 14, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    It would also spark wholesale slaughter of Democrats at the polls next November–they'd lose every Independent vote in the country, and probably even a lot of moderate Democrats who have this odd opposition to tyranny, regardless of the purported benefits of that tyranny.

    December 14, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. Smell of dead fish

    Rahm wanting to ram through legislation?
    I'm shocked. Shocked I tell you.

    December 14, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. old timer

    vote out all people who are now holding offices is government

    December 14, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  9. jeckel, AZ

    How can these congressmen, on any level, worry more about "getting around" certain of their members and pushing through pork-fat nonsense bills than the fact that they are NOT listening to the American citizens who, consistently and loudly (though ignored), have said, "STOP. Look. Listen." ???

    December 14, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  10. mike

    "Reid’s resistance, said the sources, stemmed from concern that adoption of the strategy would spark major political pushback from Democrats facing re-election next year."

    Wrong Reid ... You're going to face major re-election hurdles if you pass watered-down or no health care reform at all ...

    Use Reconciliation & be done with it, end of story ...

    If the GoClowns got away with it to give their rich friends tax cuts in 2001, then using it for health care is something I can deal with ...

    December 14, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. jp,michigan

    I hope the Democrats are smart enough to not use reconciliation to pass the health-care bill. Re-election next year if they do, will be nastly. American people dont forget we still khave power, the power of the voting booth. We need health-care reform, but not what Mr. Reid and the White house want to give us. If Mr. Obama signs the funding bill for 2010, with all that pork and the cost of 1.1 trillion dollars. Believe me he doesn't care about the American people only the Demcratic Party.

    December 14, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  12. Rose

    Thats right Rahm, push them into something most of this country does not want, he has to help Obama save face. It would be one huge mistake to use the reconcilitation method for the Dems and Reid knows it. They only care about re-election not what the people want. This Adm. is awful, they don't follow the will of the people or the Constitution.

    December 14, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  13. karela

    The country is so very weary of Joe Lieberman. He apparently doesn't care how many Americans die and suffer because of his prima donna routine. One could wish a pox upon him----one big enough to get him out of the Senate. Go Away Joe. You've created a legacy of infamy for yourself.

    December 14, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  14. Chris - Denver

    The country wants healthcare reform, and if Joe Lieberman insists on drawing attention to himself by supporting the cynical Republican fillibuster, then absolutely reconciliation should be used.

    December 14, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. Dennis in AZ

    Assuming the Democrats have any support left? Please share that optimism with Tiger Wood's marriage counselor! As a "Joe Normal conservative but unaffiliated with a political party." my take on the Health Care Bill is that it shouldn't go forward. It's a bit like encouraging pre-schoolers to play with fire and loaded weapons–giving the government that kind of power over our lives. All of Congress should be encouraged to stop spending our money so frivolously and JUST SAY NO! Of course, Harry Reid, Barney Franks, Nancy "Il Capo" Pelosi, and the rest would be trying to re-write the Bill so a No vote actually passes the legislation. And, the Republicans fresh back from Botox treatments would be bemoaning the confusion created by the Democrats (Like they had the monopoly on legislative confusion...). I'm done–throw them all out of office now.

    December 14, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  16. Laura

    Joe Lieberman is not negotiating in good faith. He supported a Medicare buy-in a few months ago, and now he'll filibuster it? We need HC reform. If reconciliation is the only way to achieve it, then the Dems should place governing ahead of re-election campaigns. (Want to see a really ugly 2010 btw? Let hcr fail!) And to the person who mentioned tyranny - since when is a bill being passed with "only" a simple majority of our elected representatives tyranny??

    December 14, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  17. karela

    "The Republicans got their three tax cuts for the wealthy through reconciliation during the Bush years."

    Right you are. And that was another big push that went a long way toward killing off the middle class in America. America has experienced a major shift away from the middle class over the past 25 years. As a result of tax cuts for the wealthy and loop holes custom written for fat cats and laws that served the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class, this is now a fact: 90% of all American wealth is held by the top 10% of wealthiest Americans. They, as a group, don't care that your family is doing without. They only care that they had the ability to rig our legal system in their own favor and they did it. Right now Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson are caring nothing about millions of Americans who will suffer and die without health care. They're worried about insurance corporate profits. They do that because they're paid to do that. They take the money and they're doing what they were paid to do.

    December 14, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  18. Tim

    Notice once again that Obama is calling all Democrats to the White House, in the liberal spirit of bi-partisanship. Remember he won. Don't worry about the over-reaching. Big ego's never get bruised by such a thing.

    Change you can believe in.

    December 14, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  19. Carnell From The Motor City!

    Somebody Had Better Get Some Kind Of Health Care Reform Passed!

    December 14, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  20. MaryJo

    My question is once they get it through, how do they marry up with the House bill. What they should do is take the House bill anyway. What they are doing to this bill in the Senate is an abortion. They can push through whatever they want and I've wanted them to do that from the beginning, but it's the last step that matters and I just pray Nancy Pelosi remains as strong and as effective as she has been because that version, even with the abortion abortion, is a better bill than what is being considered in the Senate.

    December 14, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  21. D. Tree

    The supreme irony is the that liberal health care reform costs LESS than conservative health care reform.

    Watered-down legislation may be bi-partisan, but it will cost the taxpayers MORE, and will still leave millions uninsured.

    If Democrats want to win in 2010, they need to pass strong reform and OWN it.

    December 14, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  22. Rickster

    As the health care plan struggles in the Senate, public opposition remains stable. Fifty-six percent (56% ) oppose the plan working its way through Congress while just 40% favor it.

    December 14, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  23. bmw

    Reid's reelection woes will be due to his spinelessness if he allows any "compromise" that eliminates the public option or a Medicare buy-in alternative. Why should one self-satisfied, obstructionist senator like Liebermann be allowed to prevent insurance choices from being available to all Americans. How much has Blue Cross paid him so far?

    The Democrats have bent over backwards to accommodate the Republicans and conservative "Democrats" who are owned by the insurance industry. It's time to shut down the filibuster process by using reconciliation.

    Expand Medicare so that EVERYONE can buy in. This will show the neocons and their insurance industry puppetmasters that they can either participate in compromises or get even less than they want.

    December 14, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  24. Cato

    Reconciliation should have been used from the very point in time when it became obvious that the GOP was planning to use this issue as "Obama's Waterloo". It has been used numerous times the last few years BY the GOP to pass Bush era legislation that wouldn't have been passed if it needed the 60 vote margin. Reid has been the biggest obstacle to passing this legislation, from the very start.

    December 14, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  25. Kim

    Have a backbone Senator Reid!!!

    December 14, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
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