Yesterday on MSNBC’s Ed Show, host Ed Schultz noted that despite his new role as a member of the Democratic caucus, Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) still opposed using the budget reconciliation process to get around a likely Republican filibuster of health care reform. In response, Shultz’s guest, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), acknowledged that he also opposed the use of the budget reconciliation process to pass health care reform — even as an “insurance policy”:
SCHULTZ: I know that you too [are opposed to] reconciliation. Is this at odds with most democrats? Break that down for us.
CONRAD: I can say this. In the conference committee, I was clearly outvoted. You had the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the President of the United States all believing that it should at least be an insurance policy.
Conrad said further that he doesn’t believe that the process “works very well” and that he expected to try to pass health care reform via the “regular Senate process.” Watch it:
If Conrad is committed to health care reform, he would do well to support the use of the reconciliation process, should it be necessary. Indeed, as he himself argued last fall, “[I]f we as a society fail to control health care costs, there will be a detrimental effect on our nation’s economy and standard of living.”
Keeping reconciliation on the table does not preclude using the “regular Senate process” that Conrad prefers. To make use of that regular process requires that congressional Republicans negotiate health care reform in good faith. But as Igor Volsky explains, Republicans have shown in recent months that they have no intention of doing so:
Key Republicans voted against the popular SCHIP legislation, eight Republican senators (including health care heavy weights Grassely and Hatch) voted [in committee] against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Service, Republicans misrepresented the intent of health information technology and comparative effectiveness research in the stimulus…and have already taken the public [health plan] option off the table.
Matthew Yglesias comes to a similar conclusion, writing that Republicans appear to be making empty promises of cooperation in an attempt to convince Democrats like Conrad to “unilaterally abjure procedural methods and revenue sources that would make reform possible.”