Dem lawmaker hints at reconciliation for health bill if Dems lose in Massachusetts

Democrats are eyeing a parliamentary maneuver to sidestep the Senate's filibuster rules to pass healthcare if they lose their supermajority, one House lawmaker hinted Monday.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), the head of the New Democrat Coalition taskforce on healthcare, suggested that Senate Democrats may use budget reconciliation to pass a health bill if the Republican candidate wins a special election in Massachusetts on Tuesday.

Schwartz said that Democrats would move forward with their healthcare bill until a new senator is installed, but left the door open to reconciliation, which allows the Senate to pass a bill with only a simple majority.

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"Until the new senator is sworn in, Massachusetts is represented by a U.S. senator. We will move forward if we can to get this done," she said during an interview on Fox News. "It was always our goal to move forward in the next couple of weeks in any case."

Republican Scott Brown is within striking distance of claiming for the GOP the Senate seat held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D). State Attorney General Martha Coakley, meanwhile, is hoping to hold it for Democrats, with Sen. Paul Kirk (D) having served in the interim.


"Of course, really we set up the possibility that, if we needed to, to go with a majority vote, rather than the supermajority of 60 votes," Schwartz said.

Her remarks echo comments over the weekend from Assistant to the Speaker and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who said using reconciliation is "an option" for Democrats.

Leaders in the House and Senate are evaluating contingency plans on healthcare and other issues should they lose on Tuesday and Republicans gain a 41-seat hold on the Senate. Other options that have been discussed include the House of Representatives simply passing the bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve.