Nelson open to using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said he is, in fact, open to using a parliamentary maneuver to pass healthcare reform with a simple majority in the Senate.

Nelson told Nebraska reporters that he could support passing current health legislation using budget reconciliation as long as he believes the underlying bill is good.

"I’ve been asked about whether I’d support using the process known as reconciliation now," Nelson said. "So, I want to make it clear: If I support a bill, then I will vote for it regardless of whether it takes 50 votes to pass or 60 votes to pass. My position doesn't change just because the House or Senate decides to change the process."

There had been some uncertainty as to whether Nelson would join other centrist Democrats to reject using the process, which bypasses filibuster rules, in order to finish work on health reform.

An emerging strategy on healthcare would have the Senate pass fixes to its healthcare bill using the reconciliation process if the House were to agree to pass the Senate bill as-is.

Democrats would still need to muster a majority in the Senate, meaning too many Democrats couldn't defect.

“I’d like to make it absolutely clear: I supported bills brought forward under reconciliation simply because the underlying bills met my standard for good legislation," Nelson said. "I opposed a bill because it didn’t meet my standard of good legislation. Whether it required 50 votes or 60 votes, the process used didn’t change the substance.”

Update, 8:02 p.m.: The Senate Republican Communications Conference said that Nelson had pulled a virtual 180 when it comes to reconciliation, pointing to his previous statements condemning the 50-vote process.