The Big Question: Is reconciliation an idle threat or next step?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Is the Democratic leadership's threat to use reconciliation on healthcare reform a politically viable option or an idle threat?

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said:

Reconciliation is simply a maneuver for Democrats to force their terribly flawed, outrageously expensive, government-run healthcare system on an American public that doesn't want it. It's hard to believes the citizens of this country will stand for that kind of behavior.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and a Pundits Blog contributor said:

We need Senators and Representatives to vote their conscience and give Americans a break via health care reform. A lot of people are suffering out here, thousands more every day.

If not the case, we need the leadership to do what it takes.

Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

This one requires political insight beyond my capacities, however there is an obvious point to be made. If the use of reconciliation really is an idle threat, then an awful lot of people around DC look really stupid right now since, they made such a big point of pushing for the inclusion of health care under reconciliation last spring. If there is no conceivable scenario under which reconciliation will be used to get health care passed, then maybe the political insiders who were pushing it last spring should look for a new line of work. They wasted a lot of people's time and energy when they obviously didn't have a clue as to what they were talking about.

A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, said:

Reconciliation is used for legislation that saves or spends money, which is why it was used to pass President George W. Bush's tax cuts in 2001. Anyone in the Democratic leadership will admit privately that though it remains on the table it would be nearly impossible to pass a bill the Democrats could defend using the reconciliation procedure. Since any of the insurance reforms and consumer protections that remain the most popular part of the bill would be subject to a point of order and would likely be thrown out, Democrats would end up with a massive subsidy bill that cuts Medicare but doesn't reform the health care delivery system. Democrats know that to end up with a conference-bill that can get signed into law they are likely better off with a product now that wins over 60 votes and appeals to conservatives. 

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

It seems to me that the Democratic leadership will do whatever it takes to enact some sort of healthcare program beyond the truly gargantuan ones (in cost and bureaucratic management) already in place. My surmise is that, if allowed to do so, they will resort to the time-tested and despicable process known as "get something on the books; we'll fix it later."  The "fixing" that might come later would bring the measure up to their ill-conceived standards, the plateaus that in time will help us to duplicate what Cubans endure. The real solution for any American who gives a hoot about the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of the American people is to bar the government from having anything to do with healthcare.  Does anyone see "health" or "medicine" in the Constitution?  I don't!

Bill Press, host of the Bill Press Show, said:

I certainly hope the use of reconciliation to pass a strong health care reform bill is more than just an idle threat. With zero help from Republicans, Democrats are closer to passing health care reform than they've ever been. Harry Reid must not let two or three so-called Democrats, who oppose the public plan option, scuttle the whole bill. If Leader Reid can't get 60 votes, he should not hesitate to invoke reconciliation.

John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

It's a real threat, but should Reid follow through with that threat, it will be dangerous for him politically. Nevadans are not happy with where Reid is taking the healthcare debate (and the country), and a bill that employs reconciliation would be significantly to the left of where Reid's constituents are. So, if Reid decides to go that route, he may lose his seat as a consequence. That is why he is trying to thread a needle and pass a bill without going the reconciliation route. 

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

I see no reason to consider it politically unviable. If that's the only way they can pass it, then it seems likely they will.

Michael J. Wilson, national director of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), said:

It can’t be an idle threat – it has to be a promise.  While President Obama has been fighting for health care reform – as have many Democratic Senators -- Senators McConnell, Kyl, and DeMint have proven that there is great solidarity among those opposed to health care reform in their opposition to make it the President’s Waterloo (their term, not mine). Senator Reid has three options; work with the Senate to pass the best bill possible through regular procedures, garner 60 votes to end the filibuster, or utilize reconciliation in order to keep faith with the American people.  Call it a threat or call it a promise, but the finish line is within sight.  To show acquiesce to those who are not in the majority and let them determine the outcome of health care for the rest of us would be criminal.  Sen. Reid has to keep reconciliation in his breast pocket and willing to use it if necessary.  If only to keep the promise.

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