Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) said Friday that he was open to using reconciliation to pass health care reform, according to Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore.
Begich told Moore that he would wait to see wording of the reconciliation before voting:
"Health care reform has already passed the Senate by a 60 vote super majority. If the comprehensive health care bill passes the House, the 'clean-up' reconciliation could be passed through the Senate with an up or down vote. I am waiting to see the wording of the reconciliation before voting. I am well aware of the more than 100,000 Alaskans who are without health insurance and the rising costs for those who do."
Begich's willingness to support reconciliation makes him the 50th senator on record to be open to a vote on health care reform using the filibuster-busting procedure. If House Democrats manage to pass the legislation, it could move to the Senate where Vice President Joe Biden could cast the deciding vote if the chamber is evenly split at 50-50.
News of Begich's position on the the simple majority vote was first published on Open Left. The Senator's office reportedly sent the message below to a constituent:
Thank you for contacting me regarding health care reform.
The reconciliation process is a budgetary tool used to address spending and deficit issues with a simple majority vote. The budget reconciliation process has been used 22 times by both parties since 1980. Action to clean up the health reform bill will further reduce the deficit.
Comprehensive health care reform has already passed the Senate with 60 votes. If the House passes the Senate bill, the President could sign that version of comprehensive reform into law. I believe reconciliation would only be used as a tool to take out special backroom deals and to eliminate concerns raised by many Alaskans I've talked with. The President has proposed narrow changes which I support, including completely closing the coverage gap for seniors' prescription drugs, eliminating the special Nebraska funding provision, providing additional federal financing to all states to help pay for the expansion of Medicaid, and strengthening the Medicare waste, fraud, and abuse provisions.
Again, thank you for contacting me. As the 111th Congress moves forward, please continue to be in touch with your thoughts and concerns.