Democratic Senator Tom Harkin has announced that Senate Democrats will pursue reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority and not the filibuster-proof 60 votes, to secure health care reform. The plan is for the House to pass the version of reform already passed by the Senate. Then, the Senate will use reconciliation to pass a series of amendments agreed upon with House Democrats. Reconciliation is seen as politically risky, but liberals have long urged it as a way to un-stall health care reform. President Obama and congressional Democrats are shooting for final passage of health care reform by Easter. Will reconciliation be just the trick to do it?
- All About House-Senate Trust The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn notes that the plan requires House Democrats to really trust that the Senate will pass the promised amendments. "The key now is giving the House some sort of assurance that the Senate will, in fact, pass the amendments via reconciliation. I continue to think it will involve some sort of letter to the House, signed either by Senate leadership or 51 Democrats."
- What If Plan Falls Apart Mid-Way? Conservative blogger William Jacobson wonders what would happen if the House approved the Senate bill, as planned, but then the Senate failed to secure the agreed-upon amendments. "Obama then has to power to sign the bill as passed by the House and Senate, meaning the Senate bill. Has Obama promised not to do so?" He asks, "Will Obama really pass up the historic opportunity to sign the Senate bill even if reconciliation doesn't work out?"
- This Is How Dems Win The Washington Post's Ezra Klein is optimistic. "Over the past 48 hours or so, you've seen the pieces falling into place on the path forward for health-care reform," he writes. "Democrats are setting up their process, giving speeches and interviews, adding Republican ideas, and setting new deadlines. They're bringing this to a vote. And that means they're confident that they'll win the vote."
- Abortion Could Still Kill It Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey points out that the Senate bill has looser anti-abortion restrictions than the bill approved by the House. If the House is to pass the Senate bill as planned, some key conservative Democrats, who promised to vote against the Senate bill, will have to fall in line. If they do vote for the weaker-on-abortion Senate version, they know they'll be targeted by pro-life groups come reelection time.