The New York Times and New Republic each report that Democratic leaders—albeit in some cases unwillingly—and the White House have agreed on a “reconciliation instruction” that would potentially protect health care reform legislation from the Senate filibuster process.
Under the agreement reached after a multi-hour negotiating session in Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office, the Congress will have until October 15 to pass reform legislation under the usual rules. After October 15, the Senate will be able to pass a reform bill by a simple majority, rather than the requirement of a three-fifths vote.
The agreement was apparently reached only after considerable pressure from the White House. Senate Budget Committee chair Kent Conrad was quoted in the New York Times as stating “Virtually everyone who has been part of these discussions recognizes that reconciliation is not the preferred way to write this legislation, but the Administration wants to have a reconciliation instruction as an insurance policy.” Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus also was quoted as preferring not to pursue health care reform legislation through the reconciliation process, and hoping instead to produce a bill that would “get significantly more than sixty votes.”