Among the issues that's caused the most Republican whining today (and all week, really) has been the insistence that the threat of using the reconciliation process is somehow out of bounds. First it was the nonsense that reconciliation was the "nuclear option," though it's not. Now it's just a sort of generalized complaint that it's a cheap way to avoid a filibuster.
Well, there's nothing cheap about it, of course. It's actually considerably more difficult to do things in compliance with the rules and current practice under reconciliation than it would be under regular order. But yes, the statutory time limit on debate for reconciliation bills (which is what protects them from filibusters) is a decent trade for having to severely limit what fixes can be made to the health insurance reform bill that's already passed the Senate.
But if the process is really the major sticking point the Republicans are making it out to be, why not ask Senators at the summit straight up whether they'll commit to allowing an up-or-down vote on the bill? Ask them right to their faces and on TV whether reconciliation is really the problem, and if Democrats agree not to use it, whether they'll let the Congress vote on this bill or not?
That's something they can agree to on the Senate floor by unanimous consent. You can agree on a time limit for debate and everything, and just agree as colleagues -- as they used to do for almost every bill that ever came to the floor in the Senate, ever -- how long they'll work on the bill for, and when they'll vote on it.
You can just... agree to it. No magic. No arcane process. You just say how long you want to work on the bill, and if everyone agrees, that's how long you'll work on it, after which, you'll vote. And if Republicans win the debate and have more votes, they win. If Democrats do, then Dems win.
Ask them that. They'll say no. We all know it. But if there's one thing having the TV cameras there can do for you, it's put this one basic, fundamental thing in focus: Republicans just flat refuse let Congress vote.
So what's really "nuclear" around here, anyway?
UPDATE: If you're interested, I had an exchange via Twitter on this point with former Bush White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto. Mostly civil. But like far too many on this particular point of procedure (sometimes on both sides of the aisle, Tony conflates the full Senate-passed health insurance reform bill with the small, narrowly tailored package of changes designed to be passed under reconciliation procedures. If you blur the lines between the two, you can argue for people who don't know the difference that "the health care bill" can't go through reconciliation, because it's not exclusively budget-related. But for one thing, the bill destined for reconciliation is budget-related. And for another, that just leaves us with the question the media should ask anyone who protests the process: "If the Democrats bring the bill under reconciliation and the Republicans can raise points of order against it, then what rules are being broken here that makes you say it's the 'nuclear option?'"
The reason it's a good question is that the answer is: None. No rules are being broken. It's not the nuclear option, and you look like an idiot for saying it is.