The Drama of Reconciliation

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Greg Sargent hears something similar to what I’m hearing about Republican plans for a possible Democratic push to pass elements of health care reform through reconciliation.

[A senior GOP aide] said the leadership — Senators Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, Lamar Alexander, etc. — are discussing how to exploit the fact that the reconciliation process allows for an “open-ended amendment process.”

That means there’s no limit on the number of amendments GOPers can offer, the aide said, or on their subject matter. A senior Democratic aide confirmed that this is the case — and that it’s a concern weighing on Dems.

“If you bring a reconciliation bill to the Senate, it’s a free for all of amendments,” the GOP aide said, cautioning that this was only part of the overall strategy. “There is no way to limit the number of amendments that are voted on. You can’t close debate. Democrats will have to vote on every politically perilous amendment that you can possibly think of.”

There’s a consensus that reconciliation is too politically thorny for Democrats to use right now. Earlier today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) shook his head when I asked him if Democrats could use the process — it was “tradition,” he said, only to use it for budget issues, which was why reconciliation was fine for deep tax code changes but not fine for health care reforms.

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