Conrad: Health Care ‘Dead’ Unless House Passes Senate Bill First

February 24, 2010 6:01 a.m.

The Senate Democrats’ top budget guy told reporters today that the Senate can’t pass a reconciliation package tweaking a comprehensive health care bill unless the House passes the Senate bill first. And if the House won’t do that, he says health care reform is “dead.”

“The only way this works is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then, depending on what the package is, the reconciliation provision that moves first through the House and then comes here,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) outside the upper chamber this morning. “That’s the only way that works.”

I pointed out that House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has repeatedly insisted they won’t take a flier on a reconciliation package–that they will only pass the Senate bill after the smaller side-car reconciliation bill has been all wrapped up.

“Fine, then it’s dead,” Conrad said.Conrad added that he wouldn’t personally make any promises or symbolic gestures to House members to assure them that the Senate can or will take any action in a reconciliation bill to address House concerns.

“I don’t sign any blank check,” Conrad said.

Other Senate Democrats have been more flexible on that point. On Monday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) told me that he and his colleagues should “promise to the House, hand on the bible type stuff, that we will do a reconciliation bill that will meet some of your objections to the Senate bill.”

And a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) told TPMDC yesterday that Carper would be willing to sign on to a letter assuring House Democrats that the Senate would take action on a reconciliation bill if they passed the comprehensive Senate bill first.

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