Democrat Chides Leadership About Methods to Pass Health Care

"Reconciliation" is the hottest word in Washington. And it's possible that Congressional Democrats could use those special, budget rules known in Congress-ese as  "reconciliation" to pass their sweeping health care reform bill.

In short, "reconciliation" doesn't allow Senate filibusters. It requires only a simple majority of senators to approve legislation. A supermajority is not necessary to clear other parliamentary hurdles.

The gambit is complex. But that didn’t stop House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from taking issue with a reporter Friday who described the process as "complicated."

"What you call a complicated process is called a simple majority," Pelosi said. "What is the Senate able to do with a simple majority and we'll act on that."

But Pelosi and the Democratic leadership team is taking heavy fire from many of their rank-and-file members about possibly running through the reconciliation process to pass health care.

“A number of Blue Dogs share concerns about using reconciliation,” said Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), one of the most-active members of the group comprised of fiscally-conscious, moderate Democrats.

Herseth Sandlin also chided her fellow Democrats for saying its okay to use reconciliation for health care because Republicans used the same tactic to approve controversial bills when they ran Congress.

“Just because the Republicans did it doesn’t mean we should,” she said. “Both parties share plenty of responsibility for abusing the process.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) is one of the House’s sherpas for health care reform. He says the House Democratic braintrust is debating which  means it might use to approve health care. But Waxman says the decision of what method is used ultimately depends on the details of the legislation.

“You have to get people in synch on the substance,” Waxman said. “And we haven’t really gotten to that point.”