A group of pro-public option senators met with Harry Reid last night to discuss health care reform. Indications are that the possibility of using reconciliation to pass health care reform was indeed discussed.
Reconciliation is just one way to pass health care reform or the public option with only a simple majority. Reconciliation is not some highly unusual or controversial parliamentary trick. It is a common tool the get around the filibuster which has been repeatedly used by both sides on issues big and small. In the past 20 years, it has been used roughly a dozen times.
Reconciliation is only one possible solution. At any time, 50 senators plus the vice president could use the “nuclear option” to effectively eliminate the filibuster. The filibuster is a terrible perversion of the idea of allowing unrestricted debate in the Senate. The founders had no intention, that 200 years later, it would be warped into some gimmick used to permanently undermine the foundational constitutional power of the majority.
There is no need to compromise, there is no need to find 60 votes, and there is no need to win the support of Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, etc.; it is well within the power of Harry Reid and fifty other Democrats in caucus to pass at much better health care bill without some potentially terrible compromises. If the Senate Democrats don't pass a decent health care bill--with a public option--it is because they did not want to, not because they were unable to. They decided that maintaining their special Senate privileges were more important.
Most of the Elected Democrats have talked a good game on health care. They have called it urgent and necessary. Some have called it the civil rights issue of our time. Others have said it is critical to avoiding personal and national bankruptcy. Many have pointed out that reform is need to save the lives thousands of Americans. This is all true.
But if the Senate waters down reform to the point of near uselessness to win the support of Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and/or Olympia Snowe, you will know the Senate Democrats were all talk. What they really care more about than helping Americans desperately in need, is protecting the special rules and privileges of their club (anti-democratic rules that were only created relatively recently, I might add). If the Senate Democrats actually don't do everything in their power to pass the best possible bill, it will be proof that protecting financial stability of the country, making the American workforce competitive around the world, helping middle class families, and saving the lives of ten of thousands of American people ranks a very distant second in their list of priorities. My question is how many thousands of lives and billions of dollars are they willing to throw away to maintain some of their terrible, anti-democratic, anti-constitutional, special Senate privileges?