Specter: using reconciliation on health bill should be last resort

Using budget reconciliation to pass healthcare reform legislation in the Senate should be only an option of last resort, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said Sunday.

Specter, a former Republican-turned-centrist Democrat, insisted that it would be preferable for senators to attain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate to pass a bill, instead of short-circuiting that threshold through budget rules.

"I think the vastly preferable way is to go the 60 vote rout, and with 60 Democratic senators, I think that can be done," Specter said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, adding that reconciliation should be on the table -- but only as a last resort.

"I think 51 votes is not desirable," added Specter, who had previously been critical of budget reconciliation as a Republican member of the Senate.

The ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), took strong objection to the tactic, which would essentially shut out Republicans from crafting a health bill in the Senate.

"If you use what we call reconciliation, that is really sort of denying democracy," Ryan said.

The healthcare proposals before Congress have been waning in popularity because people have actually had a chance to familiarize themselves with the plan, Ryan asserted.

"The rhetoric that's been used to sell this plan is completely disconnected and contrary to the substance of the plan," he argued.

Specter blamed flagging support for the reforms on "misinformation," but denied that the August recess has hurt the bill's prospects.

"I do not think it is in trouble," Specter said. "I think it is in a period of analysis and reanalysis."