Durbin: Dems will have votes to pass health reform by next week

Democrats will have enough votes to pass healthcare reform in the Senate by next week, said Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Tuesday.

Durbin defended concessions made by Democrats to win over centrists' votes, and rejected using the budget reconciliation process to force through a more aggressive health bill.

"We are moving toward 60 — we think we'll have it by next week," Durbin said during an appearance on MSNBC. "There's so many positive things in this bill, I think we see our way to pass it and make things significantly better for most families."

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Democrats agreed on Monday night to drop their latest healthcare compromise, an option for Americans between 55 and 64 years of age to buy into Medicare, to placate Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and other centrists who were skeptical of the plan. That came after the opt-out public option was dropped earlier this month in a similar bid to win votes.

Durbin said that he empathized with liberals' frustration over the compromises, but said they were part of political reality for Senate leaders.

"I am one of those progressives and I support the public option, but I can count. In the Senate, you need 60. And if you don't have 60, you're empty-handed," the Illinois Democrat explained. "And in this case, you need to find a way to get to 60 votes. And that means accommodating and making concessions on a lot of issues we'd rather not make concessions on."

The concessions led Vice President Joe Biden to suggest on Tuesday that Lieberman will now finally support Democrats' health bill.

Durbin also rejected using budget reconciliation, a tactic some liberal activists have urged that would allow Democrats to pass legislation with only 51 votes. The majority whip said that many substantive parts of the health bill would be gutted by such a move.

"Reconciliation is a very spare and thin process with limited opportunities. For example, no insurance reform if we do reconciliation," Durbin said. "I think they understand, as we do, that's a very important element in this package."


This story was updated on Dec. 16.

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