WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid notified Republicans that he planned to use the reconciliation process to push through a series of budget-related changes to the health reform bill. He said Republicans “have spent the past year mischaracterizing the health reform bill and misleading the public” with “repeatedly debunked myths and outright lies.”
Reid said Republican moves to delay the health care bill “are rooted less in substantive policy concerns and more in a partisan desire to discredit Democrats, bolster Republicans, and protect the status quo on behalf of the insurance industry.”
Reid’s announcement in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday follows weeks of hinting by Democrats that if Republicans didn’t make genuine efforts in amending the health bills, Democrats would move forward on their own.
The letter dismissed Republican calls to start over on the health legislation.
“We will finish the job,” Reid said, noting that the legislation was already passed by a super-majority in the Senate and by a majority in the House.
All but one Republican voted against the health care bill.
Under reconciliation, the Senate could approve the negotiated bill by a simple majority, instead of the standard 60 votes.
“Keep in mind that reconciliation will not exclude Republicans from the legislative process,” Reid wrote. “If Republicans want to vote against a bill that reduces health care costs, fills the prescription drug ‘donut hole’ for seniors and reduces the deficit, you will have every right to do so.”
Reid said the entire health bill doesn’t need a reconciliation vote, because it passed with a super majority in the Senate. Only a few budget-related changes still need to be voted on, he wrote.
Reid ended his letter by noting that the vast majority of bills passed using reconciliation were developed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by a Republican president, and he pointed specifically to a bill cutting taxes for the wealthy.
“Given this history, one might conclude that Republicans believe a majority vote is sufficient to increase the deficit and benefit the super-rich, but not to reduce the deficit and benefit the middle class,” Reid wrote. “Alternatively, perhaps Republicans believe a majority vote is appropriate only when Republicans are in the majority. Either way, we disagree.”