In Politico, Carrie Budoff Brown reports signs of a potentially important development:
An idea that seemed toxic only weeks ago — using a parliamentary tactic to ram health reform through the Senate — is gaining acceptance among moderate Democrats who have resisted the strategy but now say GOP opposition may force their hands.
The implications of the subtle shift among this small group of centrist senators could mean the difference between success and failure for health care reform — giving Democrats a potential road map for passing a bill that had been left for dead after the Massachusetts Senate defeat.
That mood in the Senate was matched Tuesday by a growing momentum for President Barack Obama’s health care proposal in the House, where Democrats were beginning to coalesce around the view that passing a flawed bill is better than passing none at all.
These shifts couldn’t come at a better time for Obama ahead of Thursday’s health care summit. The White House has signaled he’s prepared to use reconciliation, which would require just 51 votes to pass health reform.
The comments also seemed to reflect the early soundings of a Democratic strategy for selling the public on the tactic, especially if no Republicans sign on to Obama’s plan after the summit: The GOP made us do it.
“Obviously, if the minority is just frustrating the process, that argues for taking steps to get the public’s business done,” said Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who was one of the leading voices against the procedure after the Massachusetts election, calling it “very ill-advised.”
“At the same time … Republicans would probably shut the place down, but you could argue they are doing that anyway,” Bayh said.
Bayh’s remarks Tuesday came a day after Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) cited Republican obstructionism as a reason why she could embrace the parliamentary maneuver to pass health care reform. Last month, she said she was leaning against reconciliation.
“I’m staying open to see how these negotiations go forward,” Landrieu said. “I’ve not generally been a big supporter, but the Republican Party, the leadership, has really been very, very, very disingenuous in this process.”
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said he doesn’t prefer reconciliation, but it may be the only way.
“I’d like to see as many votes as possible,” he said. “But at the end of the day, with the obstructionism going on at the level that it is, I’m more interested in what’s in the package than I am in the process of how many votes it takes to get it through.”