Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's official--Democrats to use budget reconciliation to pass health reform

Reuters news reports that Senator Harry Reid has formally notified Republicans that he will attempt to pass the final changes for health reform through the budget reconciliation process.

Reid said in a letter to the Republican leadership, "We plan to use the regular budget reconciliation process that the Republican caucus has used many times. Keep in mind that reconciliation will not exclude Republicans from the legislative process."

In a related story, Democrats in the House say that passing the Senate bill there by March 18th may not be possible. However, Pelosi said: “The March 18 [deadline] is an interesting date, as I say.”

Other developments:

The Congressional Budge Office is expected to score the president's health reform plan as early as this evening.

House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D, NY) is said to be examining the possibility of using an arcane maneuver that would allow House Democrats to avoid actually voting on the Senate-passed bill but simply "deem" the Senate bill adopted by adopting the reconciliation amendments.

Abortion remains an issue with Stupak and supposedly about a dozen other Democrats in the House saying they will not vote for the Senate bill unless tougher anti-abortion language is included in the reconciliation bill. However, Pelosi has warned the it might not be possible to include abortion in the reconciliation bill since items considered under reconciliation must be "central to the budget."

Another issue that is complicating reform is the proposal by some members to attach a student-lending bill to the reconciliation bill. The House has already approved a student loan bill and some members want to use reconciliation to move the bill forward in the Senate. Senator Ben Nelson (D, Neb) is objecting.

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