Four Democratic Senators have sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, urging him to use a parliamentary tactic to pass a health care reform bill that includes a government-run public option.
But the former Senate Parliamentarian is warning against such a move.
Sens. Kristin Gillibrand, of New York, Michael Bennett, of Colorado, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, argue in the letter that the tactic, known as reconciliation, has been used several times in recent history to pass Senate legislation, including the Childrens Health Insurance Plan and the COBRA policy extending health care benefits for the unemployed.
In the letter, the Senators argue there is widespread public support for the public option, which contrasts polls showing overall dwindling support for the Democratic health care proposal.
"Much of the public identifies a public option as the key component of health care reform ‚Äì and as the best thing we can do to stand up for regular people against big insurance companies," the Senators wrote. " In fact, overall support for health care reform declined steadily as the public option was removed from reform legislation."
Reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass the bill with 51 votes, rather than the standard 60 votes, which would allow them to bypass opposition from Republicans and some Democratic moderates.
But in a Tuesday conference call hosted by the Galen Institute, a conservative think tank, former Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove warned against using reconciliation to pass health care, saying it would be "very difficult" for such a procedure to be allowed on many of the policies in the health care bill because they are policy setting, rather than budgetary.