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. Pelosi's a see-you-en-tea

    "...would spark major political pushback from Democrats facing re-election next year."
    Too late Reid...that ship has already sailed!

    December 14, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  2. Kate in SW Fla

    Just drop the stupid Medicare extension (Public Option in disguise). If the reforms have enough teeth, and costs are going down, and choices and options are going up, why would we need the Medicare buy in? We don't DO NOT let the liberals derail HCR. As these negotiations SHOULD be making clear, we are not a liberal party. There are liberal members, and their influence and input are very valuable, but we are a centrist country, and we want centrist solutions. Harry, stand up to the liberals, including Nancy Pelosi. Give us reform that the majproty, down the middle, centrist country can embrace and benefit from. Drop the few things Lieberman mentioned, and pass a good bill. If Bayh, Casey, Lieberman and Snowe all accept it, it will be a good bill. Trust me.

    December 14, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  3. John in Indy

    does no one read anything but hysterical media reports? Has ANYONE posting here ever even taken an Econ 101 class? Macro and Micro economics, its freshman year classes! You can't spend yourself outta debt, you can't make a cost saving reform by spending more, restricting profit centers, and NOT fixing the main reason for exploding costs. Tort Reform! Health care is expensive because Drs have to run EXPENSIVE tests for a hangnail just to cover their liability. Fix tort reform, lower overall expenses... Dems get a lot of money from the trial lawyers tho...

    December 14, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  4. LacrosseMom

    Republicans have a LONG HISTORY OF OPPOSING any and ALL social programs. Here is a list:

    Social Security (they called it socialism)
    Medicare...... yep..... socialism
    Medicaid
    SCHIP
    Unemployment Benefits
    CIVIL RIGHTS
    School Desegregation
    Minimum Wage

    Get the picture? Republicans= OPPOSITION TO AMERICANS!

    December 14, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  5. phoenix86

    If Congress passes this, with an overwhelming majoriy of Americans opposed to it, then voters need to hold these idiots accountable and vote them into unemployment next November.

    December 14, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  6. nanbar

    Millons are without health care today. A large percentage of them are small business owners, older Americans, the unemployed or underemployed. I do not understand the Republican support for the large for profit health insurance companies that have ruined health care in this country for themselves and stockholders.

    Lieberman is only out for himselft and the insurance companies based in Connecticut. Nelso doesn't even have to worry about the 2010 election. For the majority to be held hostage by these two wingnuts is so wrong. Change the 60 fillibuster rule. Move it to 55 and be done with it.

    December 14, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  7. Joe

    No this cannot happen. 1) Based on all polls out there, more than 55 % of this country does not want this health bill in the form it is in,2) pusing it thru on 50% + 1 is not what is wanted especially by the moderate Democrats. If this is done, watch out in 2010. The Housde will be decimated and the SEante will lose a large number of Democrats. If that is what you liberals want, then go ahead. It will be your funeral in 2010

    December 14, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. Matt

    The President and the Democrats won't get much accomplished if they are going to spend all their time trying to placate the Republicans and the more conservative Democrats.

    December 14, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  9. AJ

    It has everything about being reelected and little to do with right and wrong. A bill with no public option is nothing but a giveaway to the insurance industry. This entire thing is a fiasco thanks to incredibly poor leadership from Obam. What a failure.

    December 14, 2009 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  10. Brian from NJ

    Everyone can blame the GOP until the end of time for this nonsense, but they are not the ones stopping the reform. The Democrats stole an election in Minnesota, changed the laws in Massachusetts and have kept a disgusting old white racist form W. VA in the Senate well beyond his years... all so they could get their 60 vote, filibuster proof majority and pass health insurance reform... and they still couldn't get it done! What does that tell you about how out of whack this has gotten???

    December 14, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  11. Sammy

    At this point I don't care! If the Republicans want to play hardball it's time the Democrats, for once in their pitiful fear driven lives, take them up on it and call them out.

    Lieberman and the Republicans are nothing but bullies right now. Stand up and show them you can win you sorry excuse for elected officials currently calling yourselfs Democrats!. Do what needs to be done to pass EFFECTIVE healthcare reform. Reconciliation is fighting in the gutter. Drag the Republicans down to itand sqash their faces in it!

    December 14, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  12. OldUncleTom

    So, no controls on premium pricing, no re-importation of drugs, caps on payouts, and a legal mandate for consumers....

    I could not design a better subsidy for our poor, beleaguered health care insurance industry, even with their help.

    You want to know how Screwed the public is... chart health insurance stock prices for the year 2009.

    December 14, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  13. terry,va

    If they use the nuclear option we should nuke them. This isn't a budget item. This is the future of our country. I am so tired of giving handouts I think we should send all the free loaders to Cuba, Canada or Obummieland. Obummieland doesn't exist except in his mind, which is where these people need to go.

    December 14, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  14. mjm

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

    I must have missed the "conservative" plan that cost over $849 billion and destroys Medicare.

    December 14, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  15. Ready for 2012

    The reconciliation process should not be used. There is so much opposition to this so called "Healthcare Reform" bill that to pass a bill with only 51 votes instead of 60 when the majority of Americans don't want it passed would be a travesty.

    December 14, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  16. Tony T

    Please, please, please use the nuclear option. The bill will be gutted and made worse than it is right. Under reconciliation, only budget items can be passed, that would mean all the public option socialist BS, would be stripped. Then the loons in the House wouldn't vote for it. so it would just go away. Then after the Dems get tossed out en masse in Nov 2010, we can get to the real reform. Without going after the trial lawyers and big pharma, the dems special interest, this whole effort is nothing more than a thinly veiled push to single payer. Obama-one termer for sure.

    December 14, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  17. Scott

    Why are the Democrats cowering? It is shameful that the party has no bravery, courage and strength of will to get this (and other things) done. I despise the conservatives and the destruction they have wrought on this country. But they continue to do it with lies and deception and obstructionism they do so well with.

    If the Democrats can't lead – why I should continue to care? Republicans never had the majority Dems now have (in the last decade) – but they pushed through their deregulation and tax cuts, etc. etc.

    They may be bad for the country – but they can get something done.

    December 14, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  18. Can't work.....

    they would have to make so many changes that the bill would be worthless....Dems lose......can't even govern with a majority in both houses....pathetic....dems are out in November....Hallelujah!!!!

    December 14, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    The Democrats really have an uphill battle ... because everyone knows that no matter what legislation gets passed, the Republicans will do everything in their power to try to make President Obama and our country fail.

    The GOP has a "purity test" ... they have stated they want our President and country to fail ... I hope come 2010 they get their fannies handed to them by an electorate that isn't nearly as dumb as they think!

    December 14, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  20. Tony T

    "The republicans got their three tax cuts for the wealthy through reconciliation during the Bush years." That is because they were budgetary. This POS is not and will be gutted. I loved my three tax cuts!!!! Only people looking for government handouts don't like tax cuts. Th loony left never cease to amaze me. I make my money, I want to keep as much as I can, redistribute someone else's money. 50% of the people in this country pay 0% in taxes. Why? What is wrong with 10%-15% for everyone. Fair is fair, unless you are on the left.

    December 14, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  21. Karen, Maryland

    It never ceases to amaze me that people cry socialist when it comes time helping others. Yet these are the same people who scream Christian at the top of their lungs and yet wouldn't know a Christian act if it came up and bit them.

    December 14, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  22. Jack

    Why not?!?

    A majority is just what we vote for. Now use it.

    December 14, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  23. T

    No public option and now no early medicare buy-in? I hear a new Wendy's style commecial: "Where's the Reform?"

    At most we now have a Mike Myers type "oh BeHAAAve" to the insurance companies. Big dang deal.

    I had surgery today. I sit here, watching CNN, and then the Chamber of Commerce commercials come on, spewing lies. It's ridiculous. I was lucky that my issue was found while I still have cobra coverage. Without cobra coverage, I wouldn't be able to have this surgery, and I would go without health care, potentially making a larger health threat for me in the future. After busting my butt for 16 years in my profession, I should not be in this precarious of a position. I'm almost ready to spit blood - literally. If you don't think we need health care reform, you haven't needed your health care, and you don't look at your employer's benefits policies and your paychecks. The rest of the world is shaking their collective heads at us that this is so difficult for us.

    December 14, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  24. Tom L

    Another classic democrat hypocrisy.

    You blast Lieberman because his wife might have a small degree of a conflict of interest. WHAT ABOUT AL GORE AND HOW MUCH MONEY HE IS MAKING FROM GLOBAL WARM...ERRRR CLIMATE CHANGE?????

    Compared to Al Gore, Haddassah Lieberman is pennies on the dollar.

    December 14, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  25. Rosa, b'ham al

    Cowards, they have majorities in both houses and the white house and they still can't get anything done. Why is it that when the Republicans had less majority they were able to cram all kinds of bas stuff down our throats and now the they have the chance to do something good for once and they screw it up. That is why the Dems are toast in 2010 not because the conservatives have some out pouring of support.

    December 14, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
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