Pelosi: If Senate Can’t Get 60 Votes, We’ll Go to ‘Simple Majority’ to Pass Health Care Bill
March 3, 2010 - 4:31 PMHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters that the Democrats will use "reconciliation" in the Senate if they cannot find the 60 votes to prevent a Republican filibuster to pass health care legislation. Under reconciliation, the Democrats would need only 51 votes in the Senate to pass the bill.
“What we’ll do is hope he (Reid) can still find 60 votes, but if not, we’ll have to go to the simple majority, and that simple majority confines the issues that we can address,” Pelosi said during a news conference in the speaker’s balcony hallway on Tuesday.
“I’ll tell you where we are,” she said. “We are right now freezing the language on the legislation (Obama’s revisions merged with Senate bill); once we have that, and a report back from the CBO (Congressional Budget Office). So, it’s about the substance.
“Secondly, we’ll see what the Senate can do in this regard and then we will take that substance and that to our members, but our members want quality, affordable health care for all Americans, and I feel very confident that we will accomplish that,” Pelosi said.
The Democrats hold 57 seats in the Senate. The two Independents, Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut caucus with the Democrats, and both men voted in favor of the Senate bill on Dec. 24, 2009.
The Republicans hold 41 seats in the Senate – Scott Brown, a Republican, now occupies the seat formerly held by Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, the so-called “Liberal Lion.”
In March 2009, many Democratic leaders including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said reconciliation was a last resort.
“Reconciliation on health care is a fallback position,” said Hoyer. “It is not the preferred option. The preferred option is creating a bipartisan consensus."
However, this past September, Hoyer changed his view.
“The fact of the matter is that there is a reconciliation process, and the reconciliation process does provide for a majority of the United States Senate to pass the health care bill,” Hoyer told a town hall meeting in Waldorf, Md.
“It so happens, as you know, the majority of the Senate are Democrats,” said Hoyer. “So, under the rules of the United States Senate they can pass legislation with a majority. That’s not ramming something through with a majority. It is doing what democracy calls for.”
On the reconciliation process, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has said, "That would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through. You're talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You're talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River.”
“We are talking about a process where we use the simple majority to pass the legislation so, without any fancy names, a simple majority. That's a budget resolution. Under the budget resolution, you can only deal with issues that are central to the budget. None of these policy issues are, so they won't be dealt with in the budget,” Pelosi said on Tuesday.
“Neither of these issues is central to the bill. This is not an immigration bill. It is not an abortion bill. It's a bill about affordable health care for all Americans, and that is the momentum that will take us to a majority vote,” she added.