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Schumer: Reconciliation Still on the Table for Health Care

Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) warned Monday that Democrats would consider passing health care reform legislation via reconciliation if the Senate Finance Committee does not reach a deal by Sept. 15.

In a conference call with reporters, Schumer said the latest deadline set by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) for a health care compromise is achievable. But Schumer said the budget maneuver known as reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to pass a health care package with a simple majority rather than 60 votes, “is one of the contingencies on the table.—

Schumer declined to elaborate on the other legislative tools Democrats might employ to try to pass a package by Oct. 15, the date set by President Barack Obama to have a bill on his desk.

The Sept. 15 deadline, which Baucus offered last week after saying a deal wouldn’t happen by the August recess, has been agreed to by the group of six Senators working on a bipartisan plan.

The gang includes Baucus and Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.), as well as Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Republican Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Schumer was joined on the conference call by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.). Both Democratic Senators suggested that if the negotiating group fails to strike a deal on health care reform, it will be the fault of GOP Senate leaders. Schumer and Menendez both serve on the Finance Committee.

“Every time we make a breakthrough, the Republican leadership cracks the whip,— Menendez said.