McConnell: 'Not clear' if GOP can block majority-vote tactic on healthcare

It's "not clear" whether enough Democrats will defect on a majority-vote procedure on health legislation to stop it, the Senate's top Republican said Sunday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that opposition to using a maneuver to bypass filibuster rules would be bipartisan, but hedged as to whether it would be strong enough to block such a tactic.

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"There'll be a lot of Democrats who will vote against it," McConnell said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" about the controversial budget reconciliation process. "Whether there will be 11 Democrats who will vote against it is not clear."

At issue is the the process Senate Democratic leaders have indicated they will use to finish healthcare reform legislation. That process, called budget reconciliation, would allow senators to pass final changes to the original health bill they'd passed in December using only a simple majority of votes, instead of the 60 normally needed to end a filibuster.

"The only thing bipartisan about it would be the opposition to this, because a number of Democrats have said don't do this, this is not the way to go," McConnell said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said this weekend that Democrats sought to use the process to finish health reform within the next 60 days, in which the Democratic leader will have to cobble together enough votes in his 59-vote caucus to pass a bill.

Some Democratic senators, like vulnerable incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), have said they oppose the process, though it's not clear that enough Democrats would buck the process to actually block it.

Senators return to Washington on Monday for a vote on a jobs bill and to continue healthcare work after a protracted absence due to a holiday recess, and snowstorms in Washington before that.


McConnell and Reid, along with other House and Senate leaders from both parties, will also head to the White House on Thursday for a bipartisan, televised summit on healthcare.

McConnell said he would attend the event "in all likelihood," putting to rest doubts that he or other Republicans may not show up.

But the Republican leader castigated the White House and congressional Democrats for appearing to go ahead with crafting their own bill ahead of the summit, giving the appearance that any real, bipartisan input may be foreclosed at the meeting.

"If they're going to lay out the plan they want to pass four days in advance, then what are we doing there on Thursday?" McConnell asked.