And when asked whether he would support reconciliation in the event Lieberman and other Democrats blocked consideration of the bill, Sanders said: "Absolutely. Look, the trick here is to do the best that we can for the American people.
"And that is quality, affordable healthcare for all of our people," he added. "If we can't do it because we don't get 60 votes, then there are other ways that we have to proceed. And I would strongly support those other ways."
The important thing about the health care fight is that it is not like most legislative battles in the Senate. Normally, a handful of conservative Democrats and a few Republicans will demand outrageous concessions to get to the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. Progressive senators are left will little recourse. They can try calling their bluff, negotiating some a deal on an unrelated bill, let the bill die (including the provisions they strongly champion), or accept the terrible demands for the greater good of passing something.
Health care reform is different because progressive Democrats have the option of using reconciliation. Reconciliation measures can't be filibustered, so they only needs a simple majority to pass. Because of the Byrd rule, there are problems with using reconciliation. Kent Conrad has often said it would make “swiss cheese” of the bill. But if Lieberman, Nelson, Bayh, and Lincoln are allowed to control the debate, reform will end up “swiss cheese” anyway. It is starting to look like the holes the Byrd rule will make in the bill would be smaller and more easily fixed.
Sanders is raising the possibility the he might filibuster health care reform if it is too conservative. Normally this would be very difficult stance, but, with health care reform, Sanders can filibuster the bill without risking that nothing will be passed. Obama and Reid are so desperate for a victory that they would be forced to use reconciliation. On this issue, Sanders and other progressives in the Senate have the power to make sure Lieberman does not win.