Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) offered some cover on Friday for fellow Democrats' plans to use a majority-vote process to finish their healthcare bill.
Byrd, who authored the rules governing the budget reconciliation process, defended the process going forward after having said in the past that using reconciliation rules would "violate the intent and spirit of the budget process."
"I believed then, as now, that the Senate should debate the health reform bill under regular rules, which it did," Byrd wrote in a letter to the Charleston Daily Mail. "The result of that debate was the passing of a comprehensive health care reform bill in the Senate by a 60-vote supermajority."
Democrats intend to use the reconciliation process to make a series of fixes to the Senate's healthcare bill. Using those rules would allow the House and Senate to tweak the bill to their liking with only a 50-vote majority in the Senate, instead of the 60 votes usually needed to end a filibuster.
"The entire Senate- or House- passed health care bill could not and would not pass muster under the current reconciliation rules, which were established under my watch," Byrd explained. "Yet a bill structured to reduce deficits by, for example, finding savings in Medicare or lowering health care costs, may be consistent with the Budget Act, and appropriately considered under reconciliation."