Graham: Reconciliation Vote "Catastrophic"

Sen. Evan Bayh believes a health care bill will move forward through reconciliation so as not to let the opportunity to do the right thing slip away. But he also worried that such a move would bring a backlash to lawmakers - or stall progress on other issues for which bipartisan support has been built.

"I'm concerned that that might ultimately be the result," Bayh said on CBS' "Face the Nation" this morning.

"The bill that's going to come before the Senate is not the large omnibus health care bill. It is instead a corrections bill that gets to the 'cornhusker kickback' and the special arrangements for Florida. It treats middle class families a bit better on the tax side of things. It's not one-sixth of the American economy, it's a much smaller piece of legislation.

"Let's focus on the substance [of the bill]. If you think it will be better for the American people, vote for it. If you think it will be harmful, don't vote for it. For me it was a close call in my mind. This is not the way I would have written it. For me it came down to, we need to try something. It may not be perfect. If it doesn't work exactly the way we hope let's correct it. To just sit here year after year letting things fester, that's not the right way to go."

Bayh said the reconciliation would (at least) reconcile Democrats. "Reconciliation will be used to clean up the Senate bill to make House members happy. House members aren't going to vote for the Senate bill, they hate it. The Senate and the President are saying, 'We're going to change what you don't like.' "

But reconciliation votes in the past have received bipartisan support, even ones with tax cuts, Bayh noted.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that if the Democrats follow through on the proposal to vote on health care reform through the procedure known as reconciliation (which disallows a filibuster), it would be tantamount to taking a partisan product and making it law.

"I was in the Gang of 14 - remember the 'nuclear option' with judges, when we almost changed the rules?" Graham said. "I was one of seven Republicans, seven Democrats [who] said 'Don't do that, don't pull the nuclear trigger.' I'm glad I was in that gang. I got the heck beat out of me [but] we didn't change the rules.

"If you change the rules [on a health vote] it will have the same effect: Catastrophic."

Bayh agreed that Republicans would see such a vote as unfair as the Democrats saw the proposed rule change on confirming judges in 2005 that the Republicans then in control tried to enact.

"Not one Republican will vote for the reconciliation part of this," he said.

"I think Republicans will stand up for the minority in the future," Graham said. "The minority in the Senate, if that happens, is forever changed."

But Bayh stressed that votes on others issues should not be held hostage over the current health care bill. "Look, if this gets passed, you know, you're going to have some complaints about it. Let's argue over that in November - that's why you have elections. You want this or do you not want this? Don't stop all other progress for the country. We have other major issues out there."

He also warned that if Republicans did hold up action on other issues, "it would run the risk of, you know, playing into this 'Party of No' narrative."

Though Bayh said a reconciliation bill would cover less ground that the original legislation, Graham insisted it was still too much for the public to chew on.

"Please don't do this, please. I will work with you to find a smaller bill that the American people feel more comfortable about. Let's do a field goal rather than a touchdown by ramming health care down somebody's throat."