Saturday, January 16, 2010

Congressman Van Hollen: Reconciliation Is An Option

By FireDogLake's Jon Walker FDL

Finally, all it takes is the possibility of losing a Senate seat in Massachusetts plus tanking poll numbers for House Democrats for Congressional leaders to admit they really only need a simple majority in the Senate to pass health care reform.

“Even before Massachusetts and that race was on the radar screen, we prepared for the process of using reconciliation,” said Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Getting health-care reform passed is important,” Van Hollen said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “Reconciliation is an option.”

Using reconciliation has been an option for months. Democrats should have started the reconciliation process back in September when it was clear that Republicans had no intention of working on a bipartisan bill. The bill would have been signed before Christmas if they had gone that route.

Instead, Harry Reid spent months watering it down until it could get 60 votes. Senate Democrats engaged in a terrible process of giving into every one of the insane and nonsensical demands from Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Blanche Lincoln. They removed some of the most popular components, made it clear the Senate was bought by the big health insurance companies, and showed that the Senate Democratic caucus is a completely non-functional group.

Democrats made the bill terrible to win Joe Lieberman’s, Ben Nelson’s, and Blanche Lincoln’s support. And now Van Hollen admits that they did not need to. They could have passed a bill without giving into this handful of conservative senators. It was always possible to pass a bill with a public option, and it is still possible.

Instead, they are going to force people to buy an expensive, low quality product from the same poorly regulated private insurance companies that helped ruin our health care system in the first place. I would not want to be the one selling that decision during the next election.