Thursday, October 22, 2009

Behold, the public option! -- Senate Democrats may be "leaning" towards it.

Olympia Snowe, that celebrated Republican "moderate" who seems to hold the future of American health care in her hands, is, lest we forget, firmly against the public option. Indeed, she has stated that she would likely filibuster any bill with a public option in it.

There you go, my friends. There's Republican compromise for you. If Democrats want meaningful reform -- and by that I mean a reform package with a public option -- they'll have to go it alone. Which is fine, really, given that they have solid majorities in Congress and a popular president in the White House. Surely Senate Democrats will pull together to block a Republican filibuster... right?

Well, we'll see.

Some Democrats, like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu are, like the Republicans, opposed to a public option. As Steve Benen notes, though, Democrats seem to be "leaning toward some sort of national public option," in Nelson's words. Kent Conrad concurred: "What I'm hearing is this is the direction of the conversation."

Benen: "We've all been wondering if, and to what extent, Reid, Baucus, Dodd, and White House officials would pursue a public option. These comments suggest that's where we're headed."

Let's hope so. For there is good reason to hope.

As ABC News's Jonathan Karl is reporting, the public option is back:

The idea was believed to be dead.  Liberals wanted it, but Senate vote counters insisted it simply could not pass the Senate. The dynamic, however, has changed.  The public option may be back from dead.

I am told that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is leaning toward including the creation of a new government-run insurance program – the so-called public option – in the health care reform bill he will bring to the full Senate in the coming weeks.

Democratic sources tell me that Reid – after a series of meetings with Democratic moderates – has concluded he can pass a bill with a public option.

No, Reid doesn't have 60 votes, but he is "now convinced that Democratic critics of the public option will support him when it counts – on the procedural motion, which requires 60 votes, to defeat a certain GOP-led filibuster of the bill. Once the filibuster is beaten, it only takes 51 votes to pass the bill.

Essentially, what we need is for Democrats to stick together to block a Republican filibuster -- for how would it look, and how damaging to the party would it be, if a Democrat or two sided with the Republicans not just against a health-care reform bill but against even allowing a reform bill to go to the floor for a vote?

If the Nelsons and Landrieus want to vote against a bill with a public option, well, that's their decision. But they shouldn't hand victory to the Republicans before a vote on the substance of reform is even held.

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