Lincoln, Bayh Won’t Support Passing Health Care Fixes Via Reconciliation

Two Democratic senators, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have declared that they won’t support a plan to have the House pass the Senate health care bill whole, then pass fixes to the bill through the reconciliation process.

A third, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, suggested lawmakers give up on the comprehensive health care bill entirely and pass reforms one by one.

“We need to focus on things where we have a consensus,” Bayh said.”Just ramming through a bill on a purely party-line vote on a strictly partisan basis will not do much to generate the kind of progress around here on other issues that we need.”

Bayh also said he doesn’t understand why the Senate dropped the version of the bill passed by the Finance Committee with one Republican vote. “Maybe we should take another look at that,” he said. “If Sen. Snowe was willing to vote for it, perhaps there were other Republicans who were willing to.”Under reconciliation, legislation could pass with 50 votes (plus Vice President Biden as a tie-breaker), with no chance of a filibuster. So Democratic leadership could afford to lose a few votes and still be able to pass changes to the Senate bill.

Bayh’s colleague, Lincoln, released a statement declaring her opposition to the idea.

“I am opposed to and will fight against any attempts to push through changes to the Senate health insurance reform legislation by using budget reconciliation tactics that would allow the Senate to pass a package of changes to our original bill with 51 votes,” she said. “I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health insurance reform issues through budget reconciliation, and neither will Arkansans.”

Nelson suggested abandoning comprehensive reform altogether and adopting an incremental approach.

“This is one where we need to make a pie a piece at a time,” Nelson said. “We’ve tried a comprehensive approach and it’s clear that won’t be possible.”

(This post was edited from the original.)

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