Friday, October 23, 2009

Public Option: Still On The Table

Reports of the public option's demise may be exaggerated:

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.

[...] Reid 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 [...]

Another important point: Reid’s version of the public option is different from the more liberal version advocated by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in two key ways: 1) Reid’s version would allow individual states to opt-out of the program, giving public option critics the chance to say that their states retain the right to scrap the idea; and, 2) Under Reid’s plan, the new government insurance program would have to negotiate payment rates with health care providers. Under Pelosi’s, payment rates would be tied to the lower rates paid by Medicare.
Even though an aide later denied that Reid concluded he has the votes, he confirms that talks are definitely in the direction of including a public option in the final bill.

Meanwhile, ABC's report adds that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) was apopleptic about this because he courted Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-ME) for months, to the extent of including her lame ideas to weaken the bill. He even tried to rally the Blue Dogs against it.

As if on cue, Sen. Snowe threatens to withdraw her support and possibly filibuster any bill that contains an immediate public option. She also added that Congress shouldn't rush this, that "Christmas might be too soon" and "we should give it the time it deserves". Funny, considering she never demanded more time when voting yes for the Wall Street bailout, the Patriot Act and the Iraq War.

We all know that the Democrats don't need Snowe's vote to pass this bill. It's just "bipartisan" cover so the Blue Dogs like Nelson, Lincoln and Landrieu can vote for the bill as well without upsetting the conservatives in their districts too much. The reality is, no matter how much they strip the bill bare, conservatives won't like it, and conservatives won't like them.

Hopefully, this sudden surge of courage on Sen. Reid's (D-NV) part means he realizes this, and that pressure from the grassroots convinced him it's more important to please the public -- which is overwhelmingly for the public option, despite what the nutty, screaming fringe in town hall meetings claim -- than Sen. Snowe and AHIP.

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posted at 11:18:00 AM by Wonky Muse

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