So what is the chance that Reid can put together 51 votes to pass a reconciliation bill and thus save health reform? It will be tough, but possible. Mike Madden at Salon.com looks at 11 Senators who now seem to hold the key to heath reform. Get their votes and reform can be passed. Lose all 11 and health reform is dead. Let’s look at the numbers and who is in play.
The Democrats have 58 seats in the Senate (59 if you count Lieberman). So let’s start with 59.
Reid has about 48 Senators he can count on to vote for reconciliation. That leaves him three votes short.
Three senators among the 11 whose votes are in doubt—Joe Lieberman (CT), Blanche Lincoln (AR), and Mary Landrieu (LA)—are very unlikely to vote for reconciliation.
That leaves 8 senators that might give Reid the votes he needs.
Three of these may possibly vote for reconciliation if the bill can be drafted narrowly and to their individual satisfaction. Call them long shots. They are Ben Nelson (Neb), Mark Begich (AK), and Mark Pryor (AR).
So, let’s assume Reid can’t get the votes of Lieberman, Lincoln, Landrieu, Nelso, Begich, or Pryor.
That leaves just just five senators that might be convinced to go for reconciliation:
Evan Bayh (IN). Bayh has called reconciliation “ill-advised” but since he has decided not to run again he has little to lose for voting for reconcilation.
Robert Byrd (WV). The main rule governing the reconcilation process is named for Byrd and he has been reluctant to have it used. However, Byrd was a good friend of Ted Kennedy and voted for the Senate version of the health bill saying it was for Kennedy. Byrd may possibly vote for recociliation again in memory of Kennedy but then he may not.
Kent Conrad (ND). Like Byrd he has not be in favor of using reconciliaton but he might be convinced to do so.
Tom Carper (DE). Might go along with reconciliation if it doesn’t involve a public option.
Jim Webb (VA). After Brown was elected in Mass. Webb resisted any effort by Democrats to speed up the process of passing health reform before Brown was seated. It is unsure whether Webb would go along with reconciliation but it is possible.
So, there you have it. Bayh, Byrd, Conrad, Carper and Webb hold the key to passing health reform. If Reid can get three to vote for reconciliation, then we have reform, assuming that the House hangs together. Indeed, Reid can probably do it with just votes of two of these five senators. That would require Vice President Biden to cast the tie breaking vote.
You can read Madden’s take on this at: http://www.salon.com/news/healthcare_reform/index.html?story=/news/feature/2010/02/17/healthcare_reconciliation