I think reconciliation has been used effectively by both parties, Durbin said. It is not only legal, it is part of our budget resolution. I wouldnt walk away from it. I think its an option we should keep on the table.
But Durbin said Senate leaders have not yet begun approaching Senators about what kinds of fixes they would support through reconciliation.
One senior Senate Democratic aide said Democratic leaders were trading ideas on what to put into a reconciliation package but that nothing was being translated into legislative text at this point. Writing an actual bill would likely be put off until it is clear Pelosi has the support of enough House Democrats to move forward with the plan, the aide indicated.
Meanwhile, the prospect of moving forward with a reconciliation bill has House liberals pushing to revive the public insurance option, arguing that it is widely popular and would save tens of billions of dollars. But while there may be more than 50 votes in the Senate for adding a public option, adding it back in could alienate moderate House Democrats that leadership will need to pass the bill. Thats in part because House leaders appear likely to lose about 10 votes for the measure from anti-abortion-rights Democrats upset with the Senate versions abortion language.
Democrats are also considering peeling off the most popular items and passing them separately an approach aggressively advocated by some House Democrats, such as Rep. Bill Pascrell (N.J.). But that has challenges too. One problem with that approach is that much of the bill is an integrated whole, Hoyer said. That is to say, to accomplish the objectives, you need to both include many more people in coverage under insurance, spread the risk, bring down costs for individuals, at the same time you effect reforms. The Maryland Democrat said, however, that the approach is not impossible, pointing to some pieces that could pass separately, including a more limited version of an insurance exchange and the repeal of the antitrust exemption for insurance companies.
Democrats also could face a nightmare scenario if they push an incremental approach through the House, only to see it die in the Senate.
They could give House Republicans an opportunity to vote for popular reform items while denying Democrats any accomplishment to campaign on.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.