Harkin calls reconciliation the 'worst thing' liberals could want

Using budget reconciliation to pass the Senate's health bill would be the worst thing liberals could hope for, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Wednesday night.

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, downplayed the benefits to using reconciliation, a maneuver that would allow Democrats to pass a bill with only a simple majority of votes, instead of the 60 needed to bypass a filibuster.

"That would probably be the worst thing we could do right now because of deadlines and dates, if this were to go to reconciliation now, it would not be written by my committee -- which is a very progressive committee -- it would be written by the Budget committee," Harkin told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview.

"That has all kinds of implications for how this bill might be drafted by the Budget committee," he added.

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Harkin said that some of the key provisions his committee had authored, including Harkin's trademark prevention and wellness provisions, would fall by the wayside if the Budget committee, which is chaired by centrist Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), got its hands on the legislation.

"If we go to reconciliation, all that falls by the wayside," he said.

Harkin rejected a suggestion by Maddow that allowing the Senate to bypass centrist Democrats like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) would make the bill more to liberals' liking.

But Harkin predicted that at the end of the day, all Senate Democrats would be on board with the bill.

"I'll tell you, we don't have to have reconciliation -- we're going to have 60 votes," he said.

Reconciliation, which is seen as a last resort for passing the bill in the Senate, also carries procedural risks with it: the Senate Parliamentarian could rule that certain parts of the bill are or are not in order with budget rules, meaning that some of Democrats' most prized reforms could be gutted from the bill.