Lingering in the background of the health care debate in Congress has been the possibility that Democrats won’t be able to get as much as they want from Republicans through the normal legislative process and will be forced to advance reform (or elements of reform) through the reconciliation process, which can’t be filibustered. That may be a remote possibility, but it significantly changes the political dynamic on the Hill–in absence of this alternative route, meeting the expected 60 vote threshold in the Senate would become, to a greater extent than it already is, the guiding force behind the process.
But ever since Democratic leaders won a battle (with Republicans and conservatives within their own party) to keep the reconciliation option open, they’ve been notably silent about it, and completely unwilling to wield the threat publicly. Today, Robert Gibbs went as far as anybody I can recall in recent weeks–but he also held his fire.
“Having lots of different avenues to take gives, I think, Congress an understanding of how serious the problem is and the fact that we want to go through Congress and work with them in constructive way to get comprehensive health care reform enacted this year.”
That’s about as vocal as any Democratic official has been on the topic in a very long time. And as you can see, Gibbs was extremely careful not to make it seem as if the White House has any interest in taking the reins of the health care reform process.