The word is that Senate Dems have agreed to go ahead with reconciliation to pass health care reform, as explained by Steve Benen —
By agreeing to pursue reconciliation, the Senate leadership almost certainly believes it will have the 51 votes needed to approve the budget fix. This makes sense — even center-right Dems have been coming around on this procedural question in recent weeks, frustrated by Republican obstinacy.
I should emphasize, for any lawmakers or reporters who may be reading, that by agreeing to the majority-rule route, Dems aren’t talking about passing health care reform through reconciliation. Health care reform was already approved by the Senate in December, and it passed 60 to 39 through the regular ol’ legislative process. No tricks, no abuses, nothing unusual at all.
Rather, reconciliation will now be used — if all goes according to plan — to approve a modest budget fix that will improve the final reform bill.
More good news — some Senators are determined to continue to push for the public option, in a separate bill.
Sen. Jim Bunning has ended his grandstanding, and President Obama has signed the jobless benefits provision that Bunning was holding up.
The question remains, WTF was Bunning doing? Apparently Bunning was ticked off at other Republicans because they weren’t supporting his re-election.
According to some rightie bloggers, Senator Bunning’s Lexington office got a couple of bomb threats. They are attributing these threats to lefties, which of course is absurd. Bunning’s stunt was great news for us, politically. It’s the people whose unemployment benefits were on hold who may have felt otherwise.
Meanwhile, Rep. Charlie Rangel just announced he is stepping down from his post as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, but only temporarily. Rangel is being investigated for a number of ethics violations, and he says he is relinquishing his chair only as long as investigations are ongoing. I say that if even some of the accusations against him turn out to be true — as I suspect they will — at the very least he should lose the chair permanently.