Byrd Gives the Thumbs Up for Reconciliation

The 92-year-old senator who wrote the Senate's budget reconciliation rules says it's okay for Democrats to use the procedure to pass fixes to the Senate health care bill.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) penned a letter to the editor in the Charleston Daily Mail, asserting that:

The entire Senate- or House- passed health care bill could not and would not pass muster under the current reconciliation rules, which were established under my watch.

Yet a bill structured to reduce deficits by, for example, finding savings in Medicare or lowering health care costs, may be consistent with the Budget Act, and appropriately considered under reconciliation.

It has long been held by Byrd and other senators that reconciliation--designed to pass budget and tax measures--could not justly be used to pass a comprehensive bill of health care reform (though liberals, for instance, have argued that a public health insurance option is a matter critical to federal balance sheets, and thus fits within the reconciliation framework). What Democrats now plan is to pass the Senate's comprehensive bill through the House, then find ways to modify it through reconciliation. And Byrd seems to agree that such a plan is appropriate.

Republicans, meanwhile, continue to claim that reconciliation is out of line and scarcely used.

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