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Reid Looking ‘Very Closely’ at Reconciliation for Health Care

Updated: 2:41 p.m.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday reiterated his intention to salvage Congress’ health care reform efforts, even as he acknowledged that Democratic leaders have yet to figure out a way to get over the procedural hurdles that they may encounter in trying to revive the issue. “We’re going to move forward. We’re going to do health care reform this year,” Reid told reporters. “The question is procedurally how do we do it.”Reid said he is looking “very, very closely” at a potential scenario where the House would simply pass the Senate-approved bill and then both chambers would pass a supplemental measure to address the House’s concerns under budget reconciliation rules, which would protect the second measure from a GOP-led filibuster.Asked whether that plan was still alive and viable for him, Reid said: “It’s something we’re going to take a hard look at. It’s something we’re looking at very, very closely. That’s where a lot of the procedural problems come in. It’s real tough to do it the right way and we don’t know how to do that yet.”Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), however, indicated there could be a time limit on how long Democrats can wait to use the reconciliation route, given the instructions that would allow Democrats to use the procedure apply only until a new budget is passed. “There could be a time constraint there based on a new budget resolution. ... The authority for reconciliation is under the old budget resolution,” he told reporters. “There’s no specific time limit, but you have to pass a budget resolution before you can start the appropriations committee allocations. So it all sequences.”While the deadline for passing a new budget resolution is April 15 of every year, Congress routinely blows past that date.Asked whether he believes leaders could corral 51 votes for a reconciliation bill, Durbin said: “It depends on what’s in the package. We can’t assume we have 51 votes. We need to present a package.” Though Reid would only need a simple majority, or 51 votes, to pass a reconciliation bill, several moderate Democrats have already expressed outright opposition or skepticism about using those rules to force through the controversial health care bill. With 59 Members in his caucus now, Reid could only afford to lose nine votes, assuming Vice President Joseph Biden would vote to break a tie in favor of the bill. Meanwhile, Reid said he agreed with President Barack Obama’s focus on the economy and job creation in Wednesday night’s State of the Union address. Reid formally announced that Democrats would move several different job creation measures throughout this year but said that agenda would also include financial regulatory reform, health care reform and an energy bill.“We’re going to have a jobs agenda. We’re going to do more than one thing,” Reid said. “We will announce that sometime next week.”Reid added that the strategy of moving several bills instead of one massive measure “gives the Republicans an opportunity to work with us.”Senate Democrats were briefed Thursday afternoon on the jobs proposals that Reid is planning on pushing.

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