Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) today stated that he is open to the reconciliation sidecar strategy for passing health care reform. This plan would have the House pass the Senate bill as is, with a reconciliation measure to fix the Senate bill effectively being passed at the same time.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) made clear his openness to applying budget reconciliation to healthcare, a position he opposed prior to this week’s special election in Massachusetts, is contingent on the content of the bill.
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“If the House passed the Senate bill, could reconciliation, that process, be used to fix things that might be improved upon? Yes,” Conrad said. “Would I support it? I can’t know that without knowing what would be included in the package.”

Conrad is both a fairly conservative Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, through which the reconciliation measure would need to pass. This makes his even tepid support of the reconciliation sidecar strategy an important indicator that it may well become the preferred path for passage of health care reform. Further evidence was provided by SEIU President Andy Stern, who also expressed conditional support for the idea, while President Obama has now clearly taken the alternative “rush” strategy off the table.

If Democrats decide to using the reconciliation sidecar strategy, the question is what will be put in the reconciliation bill. The best political move would be to include a public option. The public option is very popular, and it would also save money. The money saved by the public option could be used to pay for changes like increased affordability or fixing the teacher tax.