Dem 'Centrists' Plot To Push Back On Obama Agenda

Dem 'Centrists' Plot To Push Back On Obama Agenda

UPDATE 3/20: House Democrats are setting a September deadline for a compromise with Republicans on health care, the Washington Post reports. After that, they will use the budget reconciliation process to move forward without GOP votes.

After meeting late Wednesday with senior White House officials, House Democratic leaders decided to include the shortcut in the budget proposal they will unveil next week, congressional sources said.

Known as budget reconciliation, the shortcut would permit lawmakers to roll Obama's health-care proposals into a bill that cannot be filibustered, meaning Democrats could push it through the Senate with 51 votes, instead of the usual 60. Since Democrats control 58 seats in the Senate, they could approve a reconciliation bill without Republican votes or the support of some reluctant conservatives in their own party. [...]

The decision by the House would not prevent the parties from working cooperatively on health-care legislation, but merely provide a "fallback provision" in case Congress fails to pass legislation by the end of the August recess, a deadline chosen by House leaders, according to a source involved in making the decision.

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Roll Call reports (subscription required) that a group of centrist Senate Democrats are working to block parts of President Obama's agenda. As Obama and Democratic leaders consider using a budget rule to bypass Republican filibusters, some in the party are not going along.

A bloc of Senate Democratic moderates is quietly maneuvering to keep open the option of vetoing two of President Barack Obama's most ambitious agenda items this year -- climate change and health care reform.

Eight Democrats who want to water down new climate change legislation have already joined with Republicans and signed a letter opposing any attempt to use fast-track budget rules to prevent filibusters. Many of the same Democrats also oppose using those budget rules to prevent filibusters of health care legislation.

Democrats aim to use a budget reconciliation rule to make some key proposals easier to pass. Under reconciliation, only 51 votes are needed to end debate and force a final vote, instead of 60.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) are among the eight Democrats who signed the letter opposing reconciliation. Republicans are on their side, claiming the move would break Obama's bipartisan pledge.

"That's absolutely a concern of a lot of people," Lincoln said. "We need everyone in the room. It needs to be done in a bipartisan way."

Meanwhile, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana announced the formation of a 15-person working group of moderate Senate Democrats on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday. He says they will focus on fiscal responsibility. Watch:

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