Here's another reason reconciliation is unlikely to help Democrats pass health care reform: The public, particularly the crucial independent voting block, won't like it.
Health care reform supporters have argued that post-vote surveys in Massachusetts actually suggest that voters favor moving forward with a health care overhaul. And indeed, polls do show support for some sort of reform—provided it's bipartisan.
That sounds about right: Voters, and independents in particular, are famous for disliking messy political conflict, so bipartisan support might win over significant public support. That's one of the reasons that opposition to the bill is so high now, and has grown so sharply over the course of the year.
But what voters are going to get instead is bipartisan opposition.
Today, three moderate Democratic Senators—Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, and Blanche Lincoln—announced that they oppose the use of reconciliation to amend the Senate bill. Now, given that reconciliation only requires 51 votes, those three won't be enough to definitively shut down the process. But it's going to give Republicans the opportunity to claim that the move is partisan procedural trickery, and that there's bipartisan opposition to the bill. Indeed, the GOP will even get some assistance in selling this message from the defecting Democrats: Bayh is already saying that "just ramming through a bill on a purely party-line vote on a strictly partisan basis will not do much to generate the kind of progress around here on other issues that we need."
As per usual in Washington, it's the sort of bipartisanship that doesn't mean much except that, by appealing to the narrow political self-interest of a few mushy-moderates, one party peeled off a couple of the other party's weakest votes. But given the existing strong opposition to health care legislation and the pro-bipartisan bias amongst independents, this is likely to push public opposition to the bill even higher—and may help doom the Democrats' plan to pass the bill using reconciliation.