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.