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Rockefeller Dismisses Reconciliation as an Option for Health Care Reform

A leading liberal backer of the public insurance option, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), poured cold water Tuesday on the idea of using filibuster-busting reconciliation rules to bypass opposition from Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and all 40 Republicans to a Democratic health care reform bill.Rockefeller, who previously had talked about reconciliation as a possible route, joked Tuesday that he must have been “drunk— at the time.“Reconciliation is a nonstarter,— he said. “It doesn’t work. … It opens itself up to an endless, unstoppable number of amendments, which they will have lined up, 800 amendments, whatever it is.—Reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to pass a health care overhaul with a simple majority, limits debate to just 20 hours on the floor but does not limit the number of amendments that can be offered. If the 20 hours have expired, the Senate would enter into a round-the-clock “vote-a-rama— on amendments until they are all voted on.Rockefeller also acknowledged that Republicans could play “mischief— by forcing difficult votes that could hurt Democrats politically. “That is also true. You were in the meeting,— he joked to a reporter who asked about the political problems unrestricted amendments could cause. Still, the reconciliation route is the only one that would yield a public insurance option if Lieberman and Republicans follow through on a threat to filibuster any bill that includes one.Rockefeller said he still holds out hope that Senators will vote for cloture on a final bill that includes a strong public option, appealing to the call of history.“There is potentially a dynamic that works in all of this as you get closer and closer to the vote, you say, you really do say, we’re going to make or we’re not going to make history, and it takes on another dimension, psychologically,— he said.“I’ve been through that myself. I’ve gone downstairs thinking that maybe I’m not going to vote for that, suddenly I see its dimension, think of it in large terms and then vote for it,— he added.

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