With the courageous decision of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu and Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln to support the beginning of debate on health care, the Democrats have succeeded in keeping their party caucus united, including independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders.
Now a long period of weeks of debate begins, and there are many torturous steps to go before a final vote, including the debate over abortion and over the “public option”. Votes in the Democratic caucus will be lost on these issues, including Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Landrieu and Lincoln among others.
So the question is whether it will be possible to pass a substantial health care bill without causing a filibuster. Since that seems unlikely, the concept of “reconciliation”, requiring only 51 votes to pass legislation, may have to be put into play.
While it would be preferable to avoid “reconciliation”, the likelihood is that it will have to be utilized in order to bring about the most significant legislation since 1965 when Medicare passed into law.