Retiring Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) left open the door to supporting the use of reconciliation to pass health care legislation, though he did not address whether the parliamentary procedure should be used to pass a public option for insurance coverage.
In a Thursday interview with NPR, the Indiana Democrat, who will not seek reelection in 2010, said that he would be comfortable using reconciliation. But only if it was clear that no Republican votes (which are needed for passage outside of the reconciliation process) were forthcoming.
"It may be that that has to be ultimately resorted to because something to improve health care is better than nothing," he said.
Bayh went on to note that using reconciliation would have "very real consequences" for future legislative activity, in part because Republicans "would react very vehemently to" its use and take out their anger on other reform efforts.
"My gut tells me that you ought to try and avoid it if at all possible, but at the end of the day you might have to resort to that because we need to try to make some progress on health care," he concluded.
By stating his support for reconciliation as a last resort, Bayh undoubtedly pleases Democratic leadership in the Senate, which is currently discussing how to amend the health care bill it has already passed.
But his remarks don't get at the current campaign by a group of Democratic lawmakers to get the public option passed via an up-or-down vote. The senator's office did not answer the question of whether or not Bayh would back an effort to use reconciliation for that proposal. But an aide did stress that the Senator -- despite reports otherwise -- has "never once said he was against a public option," and "always expressed an open mind about that approach."