Durbin defends majority-vote tactic for healthcare bill

The healthcare bill isn't bigger than any other GOP bill passed through a majority-vote procedure in the Senate, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asserted Monday.

Durbin defended Democrats' plans to move forward with their healthcare bill using the budget reconciliation process, only to the objection of Republicans, who claim the 50-vote process is hyperpartisan and has never been used on legislation of this magnitude.

"We have used this process for big ideas in the past," Durbin said during an appearance on MSNBC. "It can be used this time."

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At issue is the budget reconciliation process, which would allow the Senate to pass a series of fixes to its original health bill with only a simple majority of votes, instead of the 60 votes usually needed to overcome a filibuster.

Republicans have griped that, though they used the process while in control of Congress, it was never to overhaul such a broad swath of the economy.

Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, rejected those claims.

"You remember the Newt Gingrich Contract with America?" he said. "They used it."

The majority whip said the House would have to act first -- a fact which House Democratic leaders seemed to acknowledge over the weekend -- though Durbin admitted House members may have good reason for skepticism.

"Well, you ask, can the House trust the Senate?" Durbin asked. "Where would you look for any evidence that they can trust us?"

Durbin blamed Republicans in the Senate for holding up a slew of nominees and bills passed by the House, taking special aim at Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), who held up an unemployment benefits extension bill late last week over the package's pay-fors.