DCCC Chair VanHollen: We Might Pass Health Care With Reconciliation

Is this another bone being tossed to the liberals, or is VanHollen signaling a potential change in strategy?

Even if Democrats lose the special election to pick a new Massachusetts senator Tuesday, Congress may still pass health-care overhaul through a process called reconciliation, a top House Democrat said.

That procedure requires 51 votes rather than the 60 needed to prevent Republicans from blocking votes on President Barack Obama’s top legislative priorities. That supermajority is at risk as the Massachusetts race has tightened.

“Even before Massachusetts and that race was on the radar screen, we prepared for the process of using reconciliation,” Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said.

“Getting health-care reform passed is important,” Van Hollen said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “Reconciliation is an option.”

Should Democrats take that route, the legislation would have to be scaled back because of Senate rules.

Congressional Democrats are bragging today about how close they are to a deal on the president’s health care rationing bill. Commentators seems to agree that the hope is to get this done quickly, so swing-seat Democrats can focus on jobs. They also want to ensure it gets done before the president bleeds so much clout that it becomes impossible to pass. If they’re really so close to a deal, why is VanHollen suggesting they might go back almost to square one and use reconciliation?

Opting for reconciliation would cause a partisan war in the Senate, and render it nearly impossible to tackle any other major legislation this year. But then again, what else were Senate Democrats going to do, anyway? It would certainly sour independent voters. But they’re more or less gone anyway. It also might cost Democrats the seats of Harry Reid, Blanche Lincoln, and the moderate House Democrats – who are more or less toast already, too. Plus, if Democrats only need 51 votes, a victory by Scott Brown might not hurt their cause.

Could VanHollen be serious?