A look at key issues in the health care debate:
THE ISSUE: If congressional Republicans continue to oppose Democratic plans to overhaul the nation's health care system, should majority Democrats employ a process called reconciliation to pass parts of it without Republican support?
THE POLITICS: Reconciliation is a procedure used to protect bills from being filibustered to death. It effectively lowers the threshold for Senate passage from 60 votes to a simple majority of 51. Both parties have used the procedure to override objections from the minority, but doing so carries the risk of alienating anyone with concerns about the policy being forced through. Democrats who support using reconciliation say it's necessary to enact health care overhaul that has eluded every president and Congress for decades. Republicans say that the use of reconciliation for health care would validate their warnings about the Democrats having too much control of the levers of government _ and taxpayer money.
WHAT IT MEANS: Deploying reconciliation would strip health care overhaul of any patina of the bipartisan consensus all sides say such a sweeping policy change would need to be effective. It would mean that Democrats did a difficult cost-benefit analysis and determined that passing some type of overhaul was worth the risk of alienating large segments of voters on the eve of the 2010 elections.
_ Laurie Kellman