On Monday, budget conference committee negotiators reached an agreement on a $3.5 trillion fiscal year 2010 budget resolution that includes budget reconciliation as a means of passing health reform legislation, CQ Today reports (Krawzak/Clarke, CQ Today, 4/27).
Under the agreement, Congress would have until Oct. 15 to pass deficit-neutral health care reform legislation. If no measure is passed, deficit-neutral health care overhaul legislation could be attached to the budget reconciliation bill (Rowland, Washington Times, 4/28).
Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that it is unlikely reconciliation will be needed to advance health care reform legislation (Krawzak/Clarke, CQ Today, 4/27). Conrad said that he "sincerely" believes Democrats will use reconciliation only as a last resort (Washington Times, 4/28). He added, "It is there as an insurance policy" (Krawzak/Clarke, CQ Today, 4/27).
However, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said, "I fully agree that the U.S. health care system needs significant overhaul, but using the budget reconciliation process is not a constructive way to accomplish it." He added that "reconciliation would completely shut out the minority from having any input whatsoever."
House Budget Committee Chair John Spratt (D-S.C.) said reconciliation "serves as a fallback position if negotiations" on health care get bogged down (Sanchez, CongressDaily, 4/27).
On Friday, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, "We don't have to use [reconciliation] if we work together. Even if it's in the budget, it doesn't have to be used" (Young , The Hill, 4/27).
Reid Calls for Bipartisan Efforts on Health Care
In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called on congressional Republicans to help craft bipartisan health care reform legislation.
Reid wrote, "Make no mistake -- we are determined to reform health care this year," adding, "Our strong preference is to do so by working alongside you and your caucus" (CongressDaily, 4/27).
Reid wrote, "In order for this bipartisan process to take root, Republicans must demonstrate a sincere interest in legislating," adding, "Rather than just saying no, you must be willing to offer concrete and constructive proposals. We cannot afford more of the obstructionist tactics that have denied or delayed Congress' efforts to address so many of the critical challenges facing this nation" (Young , The Hill, 4/27).