The nation watches today as President Barack Obama takes on critics of reform at the bipartisan health care summit. The summit is ecclipsing other headlines, shutting down the scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and currently claiming two of the top 10 most-used terms on Twitter worldwide.
While the president stressed the points on which broad agrement is shared, the conversation quickly shifted from what policies should be adopted to how reform should be passed. The opening speaker for Republicans, Sen. Lamar Alexander, shaped his remarks as an objection to reconciliation -- the parliamentary process by which the Senate may avert filibusters for issues of budgetary import.
"Renounce this idea of going back to the Congress and jamming [it] through on a partisan vote through a little-used process we call reconciliation," Lamar told Democrats. "It's not appropriate to use [reconciliation] for 17 percent of the economy."
Sen. Harry Reid quickly retorted that other avenues have been offered for passing reform. "Of course, it is not the only way out. But remember, since 1981, reconciliation has been used 21 times, mostly by Republicans .... Reconciliation isn't something that has never been done before," Reid said.
Chatter over whether to employ reconcilation has increased in the wake of the Massachusettes special election, swiping a 60th vote from Democrats in the Senate. Further emboldening those endorsing the process, Senate moderates warmed to the idea this week. The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn highlights quotes from Sens. Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson, who all seem open to passing reform by reconcilation.
[Image via Brooks Elliott.]