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GOP Senators Pen Letter to Reid Vowing to Block Reconciliation

Senate Republicans on Wednesday were preparing to send a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowing to raise potentially crippling objections to any portion of a proposed health care reconciliation package that they believe violates the procedure’s narrow guidelines.

The letter, signed by all 41 Senate Republicans and spearheaded by Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), is actually directed at House Democrats. To sow discord among House Democrats and derail passage of health care reform in that chamber, Senate Republicans are making it very clear that anything House Democrats agree to could die in the Senate.

“Forty-one of us have signed a letter. It’s in writing. None of us will vote to waive points of order,” Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) said Wednesday afternoon during a joint news conference with Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.) and GOP Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.).

Many House Democrats are wavering on whether to support the Senate’s underlying, $871 billion health care reform package — at least in part because they don’t trust the Senate to approve the sidecar, reconciliation legislation meant to fix the problems in the underlying bill.

The Democrats’ plans for passing health care reform call for the House to act first, passing both the Senate bill and the companion reconciliation package. That bill would then proceed to the Senate, where the GOP is promising to raise budget points of order against any portion of the legislation that it believes violates the strict rules governing reconciliation.

The reconciliation package is still being negotiated by Congressional Democratic leaders and the White House.

Although it only takes 51 votes to approve reconciliation bills, 60 votes are needed to overcome a point of order. If a point of order cannot be overcome and is not ruled improper by the Senate Parliamentarian, the measure objected to would be stripped from the bill and the reconciliation package would be sent back to the House.