Senate Democrats Circulating Letter to House on Support for Reconciliation

Posted March 17, 2010 at 2:47pm

Senate Democrats are circulating a letter intended to assuage nervous House Members who are wavering on supporting a health care reconciliation bill, but without an actual bill to peruse the letter may fall short of the assurances House leaders have been seeking.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called a special caucus on health care Wednesday afternoon and asked Senators to come to his office to sign the letter, which is intended to assure House Democrats that Senate Democrats have the 51 votes or more needed to pass the reconciliation measure.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) indicated that the letter is a general expression of support for health care reform.

“We talked about showing strong support for the House as they move forward,” Klobuchar said of expected House votes this week. “But there wasn’t a discussion about doing a letter that specifically says we will vote for reconciliation when we haven’t seen the bill. But a letter showing that we were generally supportive of moving forward on health care, we thought that that would be helpful.”

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said after the lunchtime caucus meeting that leaders had asked Members “who may have a problem with it to let us know.”

He said that regardless of the Senate letter he has “a positive feeling” about getting enough Democrats to support reconciliation on final passage.

The House had preferred an approach that would put Senators on record as supporting the reconciliation bill, but leaders had yet to unveil a bill as of Wednesday afternoon. And it was unclear when a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate would be available.