Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal group that’s been active in the health care fight, said in a Thursday phone interview that Democrats should explore using reconciliation to pass a health care bill with 51 votes in the Senate.
The procedure had been set aside by Democrats because the rules governing its use limit what could be passed to measures that affect the federal budget, and it could mean ending up with a bill that has huge gaps.
But in the wake of Scott Brown’s election, the dynamics have changed.
“Right now, I’d take a very hard look at reconciliation in the Senate and how comprehensive of a bill you could get through the reconciliation process,” Borosage told me. “If you could get a significant portion of this bill through in a way that doesn’t leave staggering holes, then I would try to do that through reconciliation.”
He said that insurance regulatory reforms that could not be passed through reconciliation – such as forcing insurers to offer coverage to those with preexisting conditions – could be included in a separate bill.
“That’s a popular measure, you could do that separately, and if Republicans try to stop that, that would be a nice fight,” he said.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also suggested a similar strategy this afternoon.
Earlier today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there weren’t enough votes to execute another idea that had been floated – for the House to simply pass the Senate bill as is. Borosage was also dismissive of that option, taking particular issue with the “Cadillac tax” on benefit rich health care plans that would affect union benefits.
“I think Pelosi is a much better vote counter in the House than anybody else is, and the original bill had problems on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “Sustaining a majority for a Senate bill that is much worse seems to be pretty unlikely and I think a lot of progressives would find it very difficult to vote for the Senate bill.”
Yesterday, Borosage wrote on the Huffington Post that the conventional wisdom was wrong about the Brown victory. Instead of moving to the center, he argued, Obama should move to the left.
“It’s pretty clear that people in Massachusetts, like people around the country, are scared about their jobs and they’re furious about the banks,” he told me. “At this point, they see an administration that’s borrowing lots of money, bailing out the banks, and not doing much about jobs.”
Borosage applauded the plan Obama announced today to impose stricter regulations on banks, and he said Obama should follow up with another jobs program.
He said that Obama made a mistake during his first year by trying too hard to work with Republicans.
“The health care debate, having spent months in the futile pursuit of Republican bipartisanship, became a grotesquery,” he said, suggesting that by the end, when Obama was negotiating with labor leaders over the “Cadillac tax,” he looked like management seeking concessions from unions.