Senate Dems consider procedural move to pass reform with public option

So it all comes down to this, despite President Obama's trying ever so hard for the length of his junior presidency to be bipartisan. Senate Democrats, tired of worrying about getting the 60 votes need to overcome a filibuster on any health reform bill they might propose, have a plan in mind that would allow them to pass their bill with a simple majority.

The public option, a public insurance plan established to compete with commercial plans, has become perhaps the most contentious issue at this stage of the health reform debate. However, with widespread opposition to this option from Republicans, it now seems unlikely that the Senate Dems can pull together a bipartisan compromise including this or or some other proposals opposed by conservatives.

To the rescue, Democrats hope, may come a form of parliamentary parlor trick. The procedure, known as budget reconciliation, would allow Dems to pass a health bill in the Senate with a simple majority, even if there's no Republican support. All they'd have to do, under Senate rules, would be to show that the public plan changed federal spending or revenues and that such effects weren't just "merely incidental" to the health policy changes.

Of course, Republicans are already crying foul at the notion of using this approach to ram through a reform bill. But given how hard the White House is pushing for a prompt resolution of this process--and the big gap between the two sides--Senate Dems may have little choice in the matter.

To learn more about the Senate Dems' plans:
- read this piece in The New York Times

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