As health-care reform gets closer to a vote, Reid says reconciliation on the table
TPM's Brian Beutler:
At a special evening meeting of the Democratic caucus [last night], Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid outlined, in broad strokes, the details of his health care bill, which the CBO has found, in a preliminary analysis, will expand coverage to 94 percent of Americans while reducing the deficit. And earlier in the day, during a separate meeting about floor procedure, Reid let three of his party's key skeptics know that if they join Republicans at any stage of the process to block the bill, he still retains the option of passing major parts of it through the filibuster proof budget reconciliation process.
The three are Nelson, Landrieu, and Lincoln -- three likely to vote against the final bill if it includes a public option, but three who could still reject a Republican filibuster and at least allow the bill to go to the floor.
And what does Reid's bill look like?
The bill will include a public option with an opt-out clause for states, though the public option itself, and many other key provisions in the bill, including the exchanges and a Medicaid expansion wouldn't be available until 2014 -- one year later than previous versions of the legislation, and the House bill call for. It also includes new language prohibiting federal funds from financing abortions -- though the exact mechanism remains unclear.
So it's hardly ideal, but it would still constitute meaningful reform that could lead to more progressive reform down the road. In that sense, it's important now to get the wedge in, and this would be just that. (Assuming that the abortion provision is less prohibitive than the Stupak Amendment over on the House side.)
But will this be enough to persuade the likes of Nelson, Landrieu, and Lincoln, not to mention Lieberman, to vote for it? Not all of them, perhaps, and certainly not Lieberman (who isn't really a Democrat anyway), but the key is to get past a filibuster, and, if Democrats can't pull together to do that, that is, if some of them help Republicans block what an overwhelming majority of Democrats support, it's good to know that Reid seems to be keeping reconciliation on the table.
Still, reconciliation remains unlikely.
For more on the Democratic Senate bill, see Chris Bowers, David Dayen, Matthew Yglesias, and, as always, TNR's Jonathan Cohn.