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Republicans rage against reconciliation for healthcare reform

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell vowed to fight any Democratic effort to pass healthcare reform on an 'up-or-down' vote. The process, called reconciliation, is fraught with difficulties.

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Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday. He said Wednesday that Republicans would campaign to repeal healthcare reform if it's passed through a controversial process called reconciliation.

Harry Hamburg/AP

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President Obama’s call Wednesday for an “up-or-down vote” on healthcare reform may not sound like fighting words, but for Senate Republicans, it’s a call to arms.

“If this bill is passed, in the next election every Republican candidate will be campaigning to repeal it,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in a briefing after the president’s White House statement.

He said the bill involves $500 billion cuts to Medicare, $500 billion in new taxes, and $2.5 trillion in new spending, and most Americans oppose it. “He’s calling on us to ignore the wishes of the American people," Senator McConnell added.

At issue is not just the policies the White House wants to move through the Congress but how it plans to do it. House and Senate Democrats now say they will move healthcare reform through a controversial process called reconciliation, which requires only a majority vote instead of the 60 votes now typical in the highly polarized Senate.

The Democrats' new plan would go like this: The House would first vote to approve the Senate healthcare bill, which passed on Dec. 24 on a party-line vote, 60 to 39. But because the Senate bill is unacceptable to most House members, the House would also pass a package of “fixes.” Then, the Senate would pass the fixes under the reconciliation rules that require only a majority vote.

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