Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, the chairman of the Budget Committee, just confirmed what Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, his top committee Republican, told me yesterday about healthcare and the use of reconciliation: the House MUST pass the Senate's $871 billion healthcare reform bill before anyone can deal with reconciliation to make changes to that bill.
BIG problem for the House Dems -- many don't support the Senate bill as is. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, has said on a number of occasions that her members have insisted that the Senate first pass a reconciliation bill that "fixes" the Senate bill to their liking ----- else, no dice.
BUT --- Conrad agrees with Gregg, and numerous senior Senate Dem aides have concurred ---- unless the House passes the Senate healthcare bill, the Congress will have nothing to reconcile.
"The only way this works is if the House passes the Senate bill first. The House then must start the reconciliation process first," Conrad said.
Conrad said the House must deal with reconciliation first - before the Senate - because of a unique Constitutional prescription. All money-related bills must originate in the House (this is a practice that evolved over time -- an interpretation of the Constitution that has been set in stone).
A reporter then said to Conrad that House members have insisted they must have the Senate pass the reconciliation "fix it" bill first, to which Conrad emphatically replied, "Fine. Then it's dead!"