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Reid, McConnell Spar Over Reconciliation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday did his best to focus attention on his legislative agenda for job creation and economic revival, only to see health care reform re-emerge as the major topic of discussion after a few weeks on the back burner.

With President Barack Obama’s Thursday health care summit looming and little confidence on either side that the nationally televised event will generate a bipartisan breakthrough, reporters peppered Reid with questions about the prospects of using reconciliation rules to enact a comprehensive reform package. Reid has said he is considered using the tactic to sidestep an ongoing Republican filibuster.

“Nothing’s off the table,” Reid said. “We’ll be happy to take a look at that, but realistically, they should stop crying about reconciliation as if it’s never been done before. It’s done almost every Congress, and they’re the ones that used it more than anyone else. The Contract for America — most of the stuff in the Contract for America was done with reconciliation. Tax cuts, done with reconciliation; Medicare, done with reconciliation. So they better go back and look at history a little bit.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he expects Reid to try to push a health care bill using reconciliation. He signaled that his Conference was prepared to do everything in its power to try to derail such a move and argued that the public would reject such a bill in any event.

Meanwhile, McConnell questioned the purpose of Obama’s bipartisan summit Thursday. The Minority Leader also questioned whether a health care compromise is even possible.

“What they want to do is a massive overhaul of a big percentage of our economy, and it’s clear that they’re going to try to get there any way they can,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It seems to me the president’s already made up his mind — We’re happy to go down there. I’m always pleased to see him. He’s fun to be around and I’m sure we’ll have a great six hours. But it looks to me like he’s already posted on the Internet what he would like to see the majority jam through.”

McConnell was referring to the $950 billion health care reform package unveiled Monday by the White House. That bill is based on the $871 billion Senate package that cleared the chamber on Christmas Eve.

“You will not see from us a comprehensive, 2,700-page rewrite of one-sixth of our economy. We don’t think that ought to be done,” McConnell added.

Reid suggested the GOP’s refusal to go in that direction is a major reason why the two sides remain at odds. The Majority Leader also pointed to the lack of any Republican support for the Democratic bill that passed late last year as evidence of the GOP’s partisanship.

“You can’t have one thing and say that’s health care reform. We need major health care reform. That’s what the people of America want. They want health care reform, not some Band-Aid,” Reid said. “Buying insurance across state lines, everyone knows the problems with that. It would drive to the lowest common denominator. That’s something we will take a look at, but that’s not the salvation to the problems that we have.”

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