Hill Sources: Reconciliation Likely To Survive Conference

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THE TREATMENT APRIL 3, 2009

Hill Sources: Reconciliation Likely To Survive Conference

If you believe in majority rule, health care reform, or both, I have some good news. Some well-placed sources on Capitol Hill* are saying it's likely that the final budget resolution will include "reconciliation instructions" for health care, effectively making it impossible for Republicans to filibuster reform. As you probably know by now, the House and Senate passed their respective budget resolutions on Thursday. And one of the few key differences was a proposal that would allow use of the reconciliation to pass health care reform, thereby limiting the time of debate and amendments.

The House budget includes the reconciliation instructions. The Senate budget doesn't.That means the two chambers must come to agreement on this issue during their upcoming conference committee meetings, which will take place sometime after the April recess. And while the outcome of those negotiations isn't certain--even some Democratic senators have spoken out against using reconciliation--it appears likely that the House will get its way. "I think reconciliation survives," says one senior House staffer, although the adviser noted it would probably take some pressure from the White House. A senior Senate staffer agreed with that assessment. And, curiously, it's a staffer who just a week ago told me the outcome was very much in doubt.I'm not yet sure what changed in the last few days. Nor can I be certain the confidence is well-placed. Another senior Senate staffer was more cautious, suggesting the inclusion of reconciliation is hardly a done deal.One thing to keep in mind: Even if reconciliation is part of the final budget agreement, that doesn't mean Congress will necessarily use that option. The instructions will might stipulate that reconciliation only comes into play if, by September, the Congress has not yet passed a bill. That gives reformers several months to work out a bipartisan compromise, which is what most of the key players--including the Obama administration--have said they prefer. 

*Update: Marc Ambinder has heard the same: "Reconciliation's in the Cards," he says. Meanwhile, Ezra Klein reports that three different methods of using reconciliation are under consideration.

--Jonathan Cohn

 

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