When asked at this morning’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused to rule out the “nuclear option” should a filibuster of the health care bill occur in the Senate. While emphasizing that he did not want to come to any conclusions before he knew the results of Thursday’s scheduled bipartisan health care summit, he pointed out that the nuclear option– the ending of a filibuster with a majority through point of order rather than the supermajority needed for cloture– has a history of success for allowing votes on controversial bills.
The measure would most likely be necessary to break a filibuster given the uniformity with which Republicans have been voting and the fact that Democrats lost their supermajority upon the election of Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. “Reconciliation is a legislative vehicle that has been used on a number of occasions over the past many years,” he said, citing the Bush administration’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.
When pushed to state more directly whether he and the President considered the nuclear option to be on the table, he replied “We believe there can and should be a constructive discussion…[but] I do think the President believes there should be an up or down vote on health care.”
“The avenue exists if one wants to pursue it,” said Gibbs, adding that it he didn’t think it “made sense” to talk about filibusters before the health care summit.
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