Kilroy: Democrats can bypass GOP blockade

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Kilroy: Democrats can bypass GOP blockade

The Columbus Dispatch – Even as President Barack Obama talks of a health-care summit with Republicans, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy says Senate Democrats should use their majority to muscle through health-care reforms if they can't get the GOP to go along.

Kilroy, a Columbus Democrat and key player in the health-care debate, said Democrats could plow through an expected GOP filibuster using a process that allows the Senate to pass tax and spending bills with a simple majority of 51, rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

The idea, dubbed "reconciliation," has attracted support since the election on Jan. 19 of Republican Scott Brown to an open Senate seat from Massachusetts. Brown's election deprived Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority. Since then, Democrats have been casting for ways to salvage aspects of the health-care legislation from a political quagmire.

Obama has invited congressional leaders of both parties to a televised health-care "summit" on Feb. 25 to find common ground. House Republican Leader John Boehner of West Chester said Republicans plan to participate.

In comments to The Dispatch editorial board yesterday, Kilroy said if Republicans continue to stymie health-care legislation, Democrats could enact much of it on their own.

"It's majority rule," she said in a follow-up interview. "It's a basic, small 'd' democratic principle. Reconciliation will help move a bill forward that will help improve health care for the maximum number of people possible. At the end of the day, we need to have a bill that will help lower the cost of health care, make it affordable and make it accessible."

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, agrees. Spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said the Senate bill represents more than a year of work and 160 Republican amendments and should move forward.

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