Passing Health Care Reform With A Majority Vote?

by Patrick Appel

Ambinder explains the reconciliation process whereby the Democrats can get around the filibuster:

[T]he threat of reconciliation is very likely just that -- a threat. In theory, if enough senators are convinced that Harry Reid, Max Baucus and Conrad (who MUST agree to it, given his Budget Committee chairman's status) will use reconciliation to push through the health care "pay-fors," they'll give up the threat of a filibuster. Problem is, if the bill is discredited and unpopular, reconciliation may increase its illegitimacy in the eyes of the public, even though a majority of senators will have voted for it. This is one of those fairly icky contraptions you find in our republican form of democracy; a majority isn't a majority, and isn't even perceived to be a majority, until a supermajority can be found.

That said, Republicans who protest the reconciliation procedure ought to be ignored, especially if they happened to have voted for any number of reconciled bills over the years that have been somewhat extraneous to the process of getting a budget done. Judd Gregg protests too much. Reconciliation isn't "controversial." It's not a "nuclear option." It's another way of getting things done, one that still requires at least 50 votes (with the Vice President breaking the tie, if necessary.)