By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Senator John Kerry said today his preferred route to completing health care reform is for the House to pass the Senate bill, and for the Senate to make it more digestible to the House by approving fixes through the reconciliation process, which allows legislation to pass the Senate by a simple majority instead of 60 votes.
House and Senate leaders believe this is the only realistic route left to passing a comprehensive health care bill this year, now that Massachusetts elected a Republican to fill the seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy, leaving Democrats without the crucial 60th vote they need to prevent a GOP filibuster of the final compromise bill. But it is not clear whether the House will agree to pass the Senate bill.
Kerry said he did not think voters would be angry about using the reconciliation process as long as the fixes remove the "completely egregious items" that were in the bill, such as a special Medicaid deal for Nebraska that was included to get the vote of Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska.
Brown's victory, Kerry said, showed that voters were disturbed by the wheeling and dealing in the days leading up to the Senate vote, and that many people don't understand why certain things were done. He said removing the worst of those items, like Nelson's so-called "Cornhusker Kickback," and a Medicaid deal for Louisiana that has been dubbed "the Louisiana Purchase," would go a long way toward reassuring voters.
Kerry said, however, he would not include the $500 million he helped secure for Massachusetts' Medicaid program on that list of egregious items. That money, he said, was to fairly compensate taxpayers in Massachusetts who have already paid to expand their state's Medicaid program to the limit, and who would not otherwise receive any expansion money that other states would under the legislation.
The key, Kerry said, is to treat all states fairly, and do it up-front so that the public understands it clearly. "I'm not for a single-state fix," he said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.