Tuesday, September 22, 2009

51*

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Over at TPM, Brian Beutler has an excellent post up on why Democrats likely won't use the reconciliation process to pass health-care reform with a simple majority in the Senate.

Aside from the fact that the process could actually result in a less-than-desirable bill, given that non-budgetary matters could be thrown out by the parliamentarian (with Republicans pushing to have as much thrown out as possible), according to reconciliation skeptics, "there probably aren't 51 votes in the Democratic party to run roughshod over custom, and even if there were, to do so could have dramatic consequences." "Why is there such hesitancy in the Senate to go all the way in reconciliation? Because if the majority party begins passing whatever it wants in reconciliation bills, it would significantly undermine the power of Senate elders."

I wouldn't call myself a reconciliation enthusiast, but, given that Republicans will likely oppose any bill, I certainly think it ought to remain on the table. And there is certainly something to be said for simple majority rule. (I delved into this a while back.) But the skeptics do make a good case, and, for now, the effort should be, as I put it again and again, on bringing Democrats together to pass a meaningful reform bill, preferably with a public option, while perhaps continuing to seek the support of, without granting a veto to, GOP moderates like Collins and Snowe. It is imperative, I think, that Democrats seek to pass the legislation the customary way, however undemocratic (and silly) the custom, before moving on to reconciliation.

Of course, liberals aren't happy about this. As a liberal, I'm certainly not.

Still, it's not just a matter of getting it right -- it's also, in the long run, a matter of doing it right.

Reconciliation must remain on the table -- it may be all that's left, and the time is coming, soon -- but caution may be the order of the day, for now.

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