Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill.
Obama’s nationally televised health care summit is set for Feb. 25 — and the president has said his goal is to use the discussion to jump-start a bipartisan way forward on the health care overhaul. The issue has been idling in the Senate since late January, when the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) gave Republicans the extra seat they needed to sustain a filibuster.
Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.
“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.