President Obama to Say Democrats Will Use Reconciliation to Pass Senate Health Care Reform Fix, If Not Given Up or Down Vote

By Nitya

Mar 2, 2010 6:27pm

White House officials tell ABC News that in his remarks tomorrow President Obama will indicate a willingness to work with Republicans on some issue to get a health care reform bill passed but will suggest that if it is necessary, Democrats will use the controversial "reconciliation" rules requiring only 51 Senate votes to pass the "fix" to the Senate bill, as opposed to the 60 votes to stop a filibuster and proceed to a vote on a bill.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been awaiting the president’s remarks direction on how health care reform will proceed.

In his remarks, scheduled to be at the White House, the president will paint a picture of what he will say will happen without a health care reform bill – skyrocketing premiums, everyone at the mercy of the insurance industry as recently seen with the 39% premium increases proposed by Anthem Blue Cross in California.

He will note that the “fixed” bill will include the proposal for a new "Health Insurance Rate Authority" to set guidelines for reasonable rate increases. If proposed premium increases are not justifiable per those Health Insurance Rate Authority guidelines, the Health and Human Services Secretary or state regulators could block them.

The plan to pass the bill includes having the House of Representatives pass the Democratic Senate health care reform legislation as well as a second bill containing various “fixes.”

The president will call for an up or down vote on health care reform, as has happened in the past, and though he won't use the word "reconciliation," he'll make it clear that if they're not given an up or down vote, Democrats will use the reconciliation rules as Republicans have done in the past.

White House officials will make the argument these rules are perfectly appropriate because the procedure is not being used for the whole bill, just for some fixes; because reconciliation rules are traditionally used for deficit reduction and health care reform will reduce the deficit; and because the reconciliation process has been used many times by Republicans for larger legislation such as the tax cuts pushed by President George W. Bush.

A White House official says the president will "reiterate why reform is so crucial and what it will mean for American families and businesses: they’ll have more control over their own health care, they’ll see lower costs , and they’ll see an end to insurance company abuses. He’ll note that his proposal includes the best ideas from both parties, and he’ll restate his preference for a comprehensive bill that will reduce premiums and end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions."

The president will also extend a hand to work with Republicans on measures they have pushed, including $50 million for state grants for demonstration projects to explore alternatives to medical malpractice cases, and a crackdown on Medicaid and Medicare fraud as proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

He will also herald the removal of extraneous provisions in the bill such as the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback,” a deal to secure the support of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., in which the federal government would pay for Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion; and “Gator-aid,” the provision to shield Florida seniors from cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, secured by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Mr. Obama will say that he will be working on exact legislative language in the next few days. Republicans can join him and Democratic congressional leaders of the House and Senate to makes these changes and to pass the bill, but either way the bill will be moving forward.

-Jake Tapper 

*This post has been updated.

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