Healthcare: One Step Forward, One Step Back

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It may be irresponsible to blog this, but here’s what Nick Baumann just tweeted:

Word on the Hill is that after leadership meeting, Baucus said #hcr by spring/summer, immediately regretted it. Hearsay tho…..

I’ll refrain from going bananas until/unless this is confirmed. But Senate Dems can’t seriously be thinking of spending another 3-6 months on healthcare reform, can they? [UPDATE: Probably not. More here.]

On the bright side, though, Nick also reports that Kent Conrad, who needs to be on board with any kind of reconciliation strategy since he chairs the Senate Budget Committee, is on board with a reconciliation strategy:

The Senate “was not designed to have everything require 60 votes,” Conrad said. “It wasn’t designed to prevent important action on the problems facing the country.” If a supermajority is effectively necessary to pass any piece of legislation, he added, this “puts a great deal of pressure on going to more of a reconciliation process to deal with things.”

Conrad argued that it’s not possible to use reconciliation — which requires merely a straight majority vote — to win passage of an entire comprehensive health care bill, as some progressives have advocated. (There are assorted rules that prevent this.) But Conrad noted that he’s open to using this legislative maneuver to make limited, though significant, changes to a measure the Senate has already passed — provided that certain procedural kinks could be ironed out….He said, “Frankly I think we have to reconsider the rules by which this body is governed,” because the Senate “is in danger of becoming dysfunctional,” and “there’s going to be a building demand in the country to change the system.”

Baby steps.

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