By a vote of 65 to 31 the Senate confirmed Kathleen Sebelius as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Sebelius-previously the governor of Kansas- worked for eight years as the insurance commissioner of Kansas. Anti-choice conservatives had strongly opposed her confirmation. Read more here.
Budget conference committee negotiators agreed to include the reconciliation process in the 2010 budget bill. This is an important procedural move that seeks to avoid a conservative filibuster against the passage of health reform. To avoid a filibuster, a bill needs more than 60 votes. Under the new agreement, Congress would have until October 15, 2009, to pass health care reform legislation. But, If no measure is passed, health reform could be attached passed by a simple majority vote-known as reconciliation.
On another federal note, reconciliation is a option that might not be necessary based on today’s announcement: Republican Senator Arlen Specter (PA) is changing parties. The addition brings Senate Democrats one step closer to a 60 votes needed to pass legislation with risk of filibuster. Read more here.