LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor said Wednesday he is open to passing health care reforms with a simple majority in the Senate, but that he would prefer a more bipartisan victory.
"It's not my first choice, but under the circumstances I'll consider it," the Arkansas senator told reporters in a conference call.
Democratic leaders are looking at a two-step approach in which the House approves a Senate-passed bill from last year, despite House Democrats' opposition to several provisions. Both houses would then need to approve a companion measure to make changes in the first bill.
The companion measure could pass under reconciliation rules allowing for a simple majority vote in the Senate, thereby skirting Republican opposition.
Senate Republicans — who hold 41 of the Senate's 100 seats — have been using filibuster rules forcing Democrats to garner 60 votes. Democrats hold 59 seats in the Senate.
A spokeswoman for Pryor said that he would prefer to pass the legislation with a supermajority.
The Senate passed its version of the health care bill on Christmas Eve with a supermajority of 60 votes, which squelched a GOP filibuster without resorting to reconciliation rules.
"I think what we're talking about today is a very slimmed-down version of reconciliation. ... It's a little different variation from what reconciliation has been used for in the past," Pryor said. "In fact, it's a much more narrow and targeted version of reconciliation than we've used in the past."
Pryor said he wouldn't say for certain if he would support the process until he saw what was in the companion measure.
Fellow Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas on Tuesday insisted she is opposed to the simple majority vote, despite saying she wanted to see what is in the legislation.
Lincoln faces a tough primary challenge from Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who told reporters that he supports using the simple majority process to pass health care reforms. Halter, however, has said he would have to see the package of changes being written to accompany the Senate bill before saying whether he could support it.
Eight Republicans are running for the GOP nomination to challenge Lincoln. The party primaries are on May 18.