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Schumer Preparing for Nuclear Option to Ram Through Health-Care Bill

2:36 PM, Aug 3, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Baucus has until Sept. 15 to reach an agreement with Republicans -- and that is still the goal. "But if we don't, it is not going to stop us from moving forward with health care," Schumer told reporters Monday. "If the Republicans are not able to produce an agreement (by then), we will have contingencies in place. Health reform is just too important to let this window pass by." Among the options is invoking a procedural maneuver known as reconciliation, which would allow Senate Democrats to pass a bill with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote filibuster-proof threshold.

Ezra Klein writes that this "won't work":

Of late, Jonathan Zasloff has been arguing that the traditional objections to the reconciliation process don't apply. According to him, this is all just false consciousness on the part of cowed Democrats. It may be that the rules of the reconciliation process makes much of health-care reform ineligible for reconciliation, and it may be that the Senate parliamentarian will say that explicitly to the chair of the Senate, but the chair of the Senate can simply, for the first time ever, ignore the parliamentarian's rulings and break what everybody understands to be the rules and pass heath-care reform that way!

It won't work.

The problem with breaking the rules -- or, more to the point, using them in unintended ways -- is that anyone can do it. Remember when minority Democrats were threatening to "shut down the Senate" when Bill Frist eliminated the filibuster for judicial nominees? It wasn't an idle threat. They could well have shut down the Senate. Nearly all Senate business requires unanimous consent to proceed. Republicans are no less aware of this fact than Democrats were. If Democrats try to invoke reconciliation and then override the parliamentarian and rewrite the Senate rulebook on the fly, the GOP will quickly and easily close down the chamber.