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Ellison urges passing public option using ‘reconciliation’ process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Never mind the chatter that such a health-care reform prescription is politically deceased,  Rep. Keith Ellison hasn’t given up on the public option.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Never mind the chatter that such a health-care reform prescription is politically deceased Rep. Keith Ellison hasn’t given up on the public option.

Ellison signed on to a letter urging Senate Democrats to pass a public option using a parliamentary process known as budget reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes.

“As Democrats forge ‘the path forward’ on health care, we believe that passing the public option through reconciliation should be part of that path. We urge you to favorably consider our request to include a public option in the reconciliation process,” the letter reads.

Reconciliation is a tricky procedure — Senate rules say things that are only “incidentally related” to federal outlays or revenues can’t be considered in reconciliation. A very strict (and simple) public option like, say, making Medicare available to all, would certainly be doable under reconciliation rules. However, more complex plans like the House’s health care bill would almost certainly be Swiss cheesed if subjected to reconciliation — and it’s unclear to even the most learned Senate scholars exactly what would be the cheese and what would be the holey bits.

And as Talking Points Memo reported in September, passing a bill through reconciliation is a bit of an inverse concept — the easier it is to pass rule-wise, the harder it is politically.

Perhaps that explains why Ellison — possibly the most liberal Minnesota lawmaker in Washington — is the only Minnesota House Democrat as of this writing to have signed on to that letter