So says TNR. They want this to be bipartisan, of course, the same way they wanted the stimulus to be “bipartisan” — i.e. the GOP getting little in return for voting yes and thereby giving the left political cover in case the program stinks — but they’re not going to wait forever. If there’s no deal by October 15, they’ll invoke “reconciliation” and push it through with a simple majority in the Senate. They’ve got the votes and, evidently, the political will. Nothing left to do now except wait and watch the inevitable decline of American health care.

The reonciliation instruction specifies a date. That date, according to one congressional staffer, is October 15. (The original House reconciliation instruction had a late September deadline.)

In other words, the House and Senate each have until that day to pass health care legislation.

If they haven’t, then both houses will consider health care under the reconciliation process, which is relevant primarily for the way it affects the Senate. There will be a limit on the time of debate. Republicans won’t be able to filibuster it.

So there’s still a chance for bipartisanship, which is what both Obama and Democratic leaders want–or, at least, what they say they want. But if bipartisanship doesn’t work, then Dems can pass this on their own. They won’t even need Ben Nelson.

The GOP is threatening to make life hell for Reid procedurally if they follow through on this, but as David Freddoso explains, there’s not much they can do to stop it. Read his whole post; it’s a valuable primer on “reconciliation,” a topic we’re all going to become very familiar with as this debate gets going. Using it to bust the filibuster is actually an abuse of what it was intended for, but then the same could be said of the filibuster itself. Exit quotation from Paul Ryan: “This takes mission creep to a whole new level. Now they’re talking about the possible nationalization of 17 percent of our economy in health care, 8 percent of the economy in energy, and the largest tax increase in history — all through a process which will have between 35 and 105 total hours of debate between the House and the Senate . . . That’s an enormous power grab.”