U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Budget Committee, dealt a blow to the prospects for health care legislation just a day before a White House summit, arguing that the process would be "dead" if the House doesn't act first to pass the Senate bill.
The statement is sure to enflame members of the House, who are reluctant to take a leap of faith and pass the Senate bill without knowing that it will be changed through reconciliation in the Senate.
Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler reports:
"The only way this works is for the House to pass the Senate bill and then, depending on what the package is, the reconciliation provision that moves first through the House and then comes here," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) outside the upper chamber this morning. "That's the only way that works."
I pointed out that House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has repeatedly insisted they won't take a flier on a reconciliation package--that they will only pass the Senate bill after the smaller side-car reconciliation bill has been all wrapped up.
"Fine, then it's dead," Conrad said.
Conrad added that he wouldn't personally make any promises or symbolic gestures to House members to assure them that the Senate can or will take any action in a reconciliation bill to address House concerns.
"I don't sign any blank check," Conrad said.
As I detailed yesterday, health care already faces a tough road in the House, even assuming that some changes can be made by the Senate. Statements such as this one from Conrad (who as chairman of the Budget Committee would play a key role in any reconciliation strategy) will only fuel more animosity between House and Senate Democrats, and create a dilemma in which neither side wants to act first.
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