For months the only Democrat who ever talked about reconciliation was Kent Conrad. He only spoke of reconciliation to talk about what a terrible and unworkable option it would be. I have seen him repeatedly say it would leave the bill looking like "Swiss cheese."
The media has often uncritically quoted Conrad on using reconciliation to pass health care reform. But Conrad is not some impartial expert. He has a strong, vested and personal interest against using reconciliation.
Looking at a variety of issues (public option, size of subsidies, structure of the co-ops, direct Medicare drug price negotiations, employer mandate, etc) Conrad is probably one of the 4 or 5 most conservative Democrats in the Senate. Reporting on the Huffington Post indicates that he might be in fact to the right of even a few of Republicans. If health care reform passed using reconciliation Conrad's vote would not be needed, and what passes could be to the left of what he wants.
For instance, Conrad is against the public plan and says it is does not have the votes. Yet Senator Chuck Schumer seems fairly confident that health care reform will include a public option. Even if the public option must be passed using reconcilation. I think the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee should know how to get around the procedural problems with using reconciliation.
Conrad is also part of the gang of six in the Senate Finance Committee trying to write a bipartisan bill. Being part of the gang of six has given Conrad a disproportionately huge amount of control of the health care debate. If attempts to write a bipartisan bill were abandoned, the gang of six would be dissolved. Conrad would lose much of his power to shape the debate.
Conrad doesn't want health care to be passed using reconciliation. It would strip him of much of his power and might end up producing a bill that he votes against. When Conrad talks about the problems with using reconciliation, his words should be taken with a large grain of salt.