January 26th, 2010
07:50 PM ET
10 years ago

Moderate Dems reject reconciliation to pass health care

Washington (CNN) - Two moderate Democratic Senators facing re-election battles this year said Tuesday they would oppose using a legislative tool that requires only 51 Senate votes to get health care legislation to President Barack Obama's desk.

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, called the move, known as reconciliation, "ill-advised," while Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, issued a news release rejecting the procedure.

"I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health insurance reform issues through budget reconciliation, and neither will Arkansans," Lincoln said in the statement.

Both the House and Senate have passed separate health care bills, entirely on support from Democrats.

Democratic leaders were working on merging the two bills, but the nation's political landscape changed last week when Massachusetts elected Republican Scott Brown to fill the Senate seat held by liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy for almost 47 years until he died in August.

Brown's victory cost Democrats their 60-seat super-majority in the 100-member Senate necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster. The shift means Republicans can block Democratic initiatives such as health care reform.

Now Democratic leaders are working on a plan for the House to pass the Senate bill, along with a separate package of changes in the Senate plan that reflect compromise between the two chambers.

The package of changes would have to pass both the House and the Senate.

Without the 60-seat super-majority, Senate Democrats now are considering using the reconciliation tool that would require only 51 votes to pass the measure.

However, some Democrats in tough re-election fights worry voters will see that as legislative gimmickry, reinforcing complaints that Democratic control of Washington has been business as usual.

Bayh told CNN that using reconciliation "would destroy the opportunity, if there is one, for any bipartisan cooperation on anything else for the rest of the year."

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, dismissed opposition to using reconciliation as a way to get health care legislation to the president.

"I think reconciliation has been used effectively by both parties," Durbin said. "I wouldn't walk away from it. It's an option we should keep on the table."

Senate Democrats still have 59 votes in their caucus, meaning they could lose eight Democratic votes and still have the 51 needed to pass a health care package through reconciliation.

Still, Democratic sources warn that using reconciliation is complicated and fraught with legislative hurdles, raising questions about whether it could happen even if enough congressional Democrats supported the move.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, emerged from a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, late Tuesday and said they are making progress on "some kind of package," but reiterated that at this time "there are not the votes in the House, not anywhere near, to pass the Senate bill."

Earlier, Reid told reporters there is now "no rush" on health care.

Obama, who made health care his top domestic priority last year, will address the issue in his State of the Union Address on Wednesday, said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Filed under: Congress • Democrats • Health care
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Michael from Ventura

    What's strange to me is the gwb and his cronies LOVED the 51 vote rule- Now it's evil? And I'm sure all the right wing nuts will be yelling "back room deals" to the top of their lungs....I guess ya can't have a memory if ya don't have a brain.

    January 26, 2010 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  2. Chuck Anaheim,Ca

    Ok, so don't support it. They won't need 60 with reconciliation just 50 and Joe Biden makes 51. That tactic didnt stop the war criminals from forceing legislation through 8 years ago, and they never had 59 or even 60 senators.

    January 26, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  3. terry,va

    Lincoln is trying to save her job. It won't work. We know where she stood and she can't "pivot". Pivoting is selling your self for political purposes. Obummie is trying to do the same. But we know what his true colors are. He is one and done.

    January 26, 2010 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |

    two great Democrats, but obama wants obama gets

    January 26, 2010 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  5. Four and The Door

    Republicans will be more than happy to come to the negotiating table, work out a responsible health care plan that provides full access and reduces costs for Americans and then they will give it full support.
    This is how Obama can get health care done soon.

    Democrats have been able to lock the Republicans ( and the 150 million Americans they represent ) out of the process so far, but thanks to the good people of Massachusetts, everyone now should have a seat at the table.

    Sometimes our system of government does work.

    January 26, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  6. Steve (the real one)

    Wow! I am impressed with the guts of these 2! Gotta give them credit. They know a bad deal when they smell one! Durbin STILL does not understand the majority of Americans simply DO NOT support this bill. Yet we keep hearing how they want to work with the GOP! That was a lie yesterday, it is a lie today, and will be a lie tomorrow!

    January 26, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  7. Shane Las vegas

    Scrap them both start over and after that is done, time to elect new people in both chambers. NO MORE INCUMBENTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 26, 2010 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  8. Right Leaning Independent

    Well the majority of Americans reject the current plan the Dems have proposed so why would any senators support it unless you just care about your own agenda versus what the public wants! It is arrogant to believe that Washington knows what is best for the taxpayers in the US!

    January 26, 2010 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |

    I don't understand what a "Moderate Democrat" is. They ALL voted for Obama's outrageous loony lib health care initiatives (okay, a few had to be bribed, but at the end of the day thay all signed up).

    Vote them all out – not a single one can be trusted.

    January 26, 2010 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  10. obama the liar

    typical Democraps....all that matters to them is adoration and re-election..(corruption takes a back seat for now)

    January 26, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  11. Tom

    I will not accept Democrats in Name Only acting as roadblocks to the health care reform that we so desperately need in this country. Either be part of the solution or get out of the way. If you're going to act like a Republican, then join their party!

    January 26, 2010 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  12. Byron in Minneapolis

    So wait, two 'Democrats' who had to be begged to vote for Health Care in the first place now think they can do anything to stop the easily attainable 51 votes for reconciliation? Bayh and Lincoln had their obstructionist moment in the sun...time to let the majority rule.

    January 26, 2010 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  13. Keith in Austin

    If Dems go the reconciliation route, there will be a serious uprising across America. The mere idea and gall to even consider it is beyond belief!

    January 26, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  14. phoenix86

    Pelosi's "some kind of package" would dramatically increase the debt while reducing health care coverage.

    Just over 10 months until Pelosi and Reid are humbled.

    January 26, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  15. No Taxation without Represenation

    Finally, the moderate Democrats are coming to their senses. The ruthless ram it down our throats leadership of the far left is equal to taxing us with representation.

    We do not want this bill, we do not want this spendin, this big government........ this liberal congress .....

    January 26, 2010 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  16. Old Farmboy

    "Earlier, Reid told reporters there is now "no rush" on health care. "

    Imagine that...

    January 26, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  17. Preston k

    Pkm pass health care now if you start over it will take two years the gop does not want healt care

    January 26, 2010 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  18. Mike

    How come my senators won't take the same action? It's one last opportunity to do the honorable thing with all the bribes and payoffs in the bill.

    January 26, 2010 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  19. Kate

    It is really sad that we can't pass health care for Americans. Anyone who has paid taxes and supported this country should have good health care. Health care is a civil RIGHT.

    January 26, 2010 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  20. therealslimshady

    The same people that had the largest hand in making this bill the crap it is today.

    January 26, 2010 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |