A Democratic member of the "Gang of Six" senators charged with finding a bipartisan solution to health care reform said at a town hall Monday that he would support using the budget reconciliation process to push a bill through the Senate if necessary.
Reconciliation is a parliamentary procedure that would allow Democrats to pass health care reform with 51 votes, meaning the party could do it without any Republican support.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico has been one of three Democrats participating in the widely-watched Finance Committee negotiations. His willingness to consider reconciliation is another sign that a a genuine bipartisan deal may be impossible.
"We made a provision in the budget resolution [earlier this year] that it could be used to try to enact health care provisions related to health care reform," Bingaman said. "There are restrictions to what you can include in that...but I would support it if that's the only way."
Non-budget-related items typically can't be passed using reconciliation, but Democrats are eying ways that would allow them to include those provisions, as well. Reconciliation would be a difficult legislative path to walk, but it raises pressure on Republicans who are considering supporting the Democratic effort. If Democrats go it alone, those Republicans, such as Maine's Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins, would be left out of the process.