Reconciling with the Senate
I'm surprised to see Kent Conrad taking direct aim at the Senate's dysfunctions.
The Senate "was not designed to have everything require 60 votes," Conrad said. "It wasn't designed to prevent important action on the problems facing the country." If a supermajority is effectively necessary to pass any piece of legislation, he added, this "puts a great deal of pressure on going to more of a reconciliation process to deal with things."
Conrad argued that it's not possible to use reconciliation — which requires merely a straight majority vote — to win passage of an entire comprehensive health-care bill, as some progressives have advocated. (There are assorted rules that prevent this.) But Conrad noted that he's open to using this legislative maneuver to make limited, though significant, changes to a measure the Senate has already passed — provided that certain procedural kinks could be ironed out.
Conrad matters for two reasons. First, he chairs the powerful Senate Budget Committee, which means he has substantial control over the use of the budget reconciliation process. Second, he's the moderate's moderate. He's the guy who partnered with Republican Judd Gregg for an entitlements commission. If Republicans have him tearing his hair out and suggesting Democrats may need to use the reconciliation process much more often, they may be pushing Democrats to the point that they're actually willing to do something about GOP obstruction.
Photo credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post.
January 29, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
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