What Do Americans Think of the 'Reconciliation' Option?

Democrats are considering taking the "reconciliation" route on health care--passing reform through the Senate under a process that only requires 51 votes--but it's still up in the air what the public thinks of this process.

Conventional wisdom says there would be some blowback for using a procedural tool to circumvent Republican's threat of a filibuster--a mechanism for giving the minority some power over what the Senate does--but just how much blowback seems unclear.

Gallup released a poll yesterday showing respondents opposed to reconciliation 52% to 39%, but a new set of Research2000 polls commissioned by a liberal group, the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, shows voters in a set of swing states decidedly in support of using reconciliation.

In Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Virginia, and Washington, respondents all said they favor using reconciliation to pass health care (list of results here), and some of the margins were stunning: in Iowa, for instance, respondents supported using reconciliation 66% to 29%.

North Dakota, in fact, was the least supportive of using reconciliation, among those states, and respondents there supported reconciliation 53% to 36%. 600 "likely voters" were interviewed in each state, with a margin of error of +/- 4%.

Neither poll explained reconciliation in great detail. Gallup phrased its question as: "a parliamentary procedure that would allow them to avoid a Republican filibuster and pass their healthcare bill by a simple majority vote?"

Research2000 told respondents: "It's been widely reported that Democrats had well over a majority of the Senate committed to voting for a public health insurance option last year. But the public option was removed from consideration in an attempt to get a super-majority of 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Now, Senate Democrats will likely use a procedure called 'reconciliation' - which only needs a simple majority - to pass the final elements of health care reform."

But part of the anticipated blowback has to do with this: reconciliation was created under the Budget Act of 1974 as a way for Congress to get budget and tax issues solved--not necessarily a means to pass insurance reforms, though Democrats would argue that health care is a pressing fiscal issue.

Regardless, the Research2000 polling seems to show that present support for "reconciliation" is at least an open question, and might just be supported by voters in some states that are important to the Democratic Party.