Thursday, September 17, 2009

Governor Dean: Healthcare Reform Without 60 Is Possible

I received an intriguing email message from Governor Howard Dean today. One that I thought I should pass on in case you didn’t. It's also on Facebook.

Now I am nowhere near an expert on this, and have to bow to others to show the way, but I have been hearing a back and forth on whether healthcare reform can be passed without the 60 Senate votes needed to halt a filibuster in the Senate, and move a bill to the floor for an up or down vote.

Some say that the healthcare reform bill being what it is, Senate rules require the 60 votes to invoke cloture and bring the bill, in whatever form it takes, up for a vote. Howard Dean cites new arguments that I haven’t heard before. Arguments that make a case for an interpretation of the rules that all is needed is a mere 51-vote majority.

Here is Dean’s argument, citing Steve Collander a contributing editor at the National Journal, contributing writer for Roll Call, and author of "The Guide to the Federal Budget" and “an expert on the subject.”

"The House-passed version of the 2010 budget resolution allows health care reform to be included in a reconciliation bill and, therefore, adopted in the Senate with 51 votes..."

“First, contrary to what some have been saying, reconciliation has become such a standard part of the budget process that using it for health care would be neither surprising nor precedent-setting. When they were in the majority, Republicans insisted that reconciliation was allowed by Senate rules and used it in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Back then, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who has been one of the biggest opponents of using reconciliation this year, made what in retrospect is an almost infamous floor speech about the appropriateness and legality of using reconciliation.”

“Second, health care reform will have a substantial impact on federal finances and so can't be said to be unrelated to the budget, which is one of the critical criteria for using reconciliation. In fact, given that at least two of the largest mandatory federal spending programs — Medicare and Medicaid — are health care programs; health care reform and reconciliation would seem to be a perfect fit.”

So really, as Judd Gregg has wisely shown us, you don’t have to be right in order to get something rammed passed a recalcitrant minority, you don’t even have to be fair.

All you have to be is in the majority and represent the hopes and desires of a majority of American voters.

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