Health Bill Can Pass Senate With 51 Votes, Van Hollen Says

Even if Democrats lose the Jan. 19 special election to pick a new Massachusetts senator, Congress may still pass a health-care overhaul by using a process called reconciliation, a top House Democrat said.

That procedure requires 51 votes rather than the 60 needed to prevent Republicans from blocking votes on President Barack Obama’s top legislative priorities. That supermajority is at risk as the Massachusetts race has tightened.

“Even before Massachusetts and that race was on the radar screen, we prepared for the process of using reconciliation,” said Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Getting health-care reform passed is important,” Van Hollen said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “Reconciliation is an option.”

This could have been done before the concessions to Olympia Snowe and the sweetheart deals to Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. Obama could have used the reconciliation process much earlier but insisted on getting 60 Senate votes to pass healthcare reform. The Administration clearly believed the legislative process wouldn’t go this long, wouldn’t be this big of a political boondoggle, and later that the Massachusetts special election wouldn’t be this close. Our president tries to please everyone and it’s killing Democrats.