The main strategy for passing health care reform with a robust public option is divided into two parts
Make it impossible to pass health care reform without a public option in the House, via the Progressive Block;
Make it possible to pass health care reform with a public option in the Senate, via reconciliation.
Pulling this off would make passing health care reform with a public option the most viable path for both the White House and the congressional leadership.
Here at Open Left, our focus has been on the Senate half of this strategy. While we have yet to reach the 50 Senators in support of a public option that would serve as a tipping point, we are on the brink. In a sign of their increasing willingness to use reconciliation for the public option, Senate Democrats are now pushing procedural experts who believe a public option could be passed through reconciliation into the media spotlight:
In the last week, Democrats have begun to talk openly of using a procedure known as budget reconciliation to pass a health bill in the Senate with a simple majority, assuming no Republican support. To do that, under Senate rules, they would probably need to show that the public plan changed federal spending or revenues and that the effects were not "merely incidental" to the changes in health policy.
Democrats believe they could clear this hurdle by demonstrating that the public plan would save money or cost money.
"If a public plan is shown to have a cost to the government that affects outlays or revenues, it could be included in a health care bill using reconciliation procedures," said Martin P. Paone, a former Senate aide who has been consulted by Senate Democrats.
According to our whip count, 45 Senate Democrats have make statements declaring their support for a non-trigger public option. We need five more to demonstrate that passing a public option through reconciliation is a viable option. Here are four Senators who are currently in the "maybe" column, but are teetering on the edge (more in the extended entry):
U.S. Senator Max Baucus has finally broken his silence regarding his personal position on including a public option in health care reform legislation. Last Monday night (8/17), in an unprecedented conference call to Montana Democratic central committee chairs, the powerful leader of the Senate Finance Committee told his strongest supporters that he supported a public option.
While discussing the obstacles to getting a public option through the Senate, he assured his forty listeners, "I want a public option too!"
Pryor's office meanwhile put out the following statement to the Arkansas Times in regard to a public or government-backed plan: "Senator Pryor supports every American being able to keep the coverage they have now or being able to choose a plan that best meets their needs. A public option plan is something that is still on the table and something he could support, but it should be designed in a way that increases and does not eliminate competition."
A national public option is one potential tool for controlling these costs, and as long as it helps us reach that objective in can be an important and useful element of real reform.
While these do not count as statements of support, they demonstrate a real possibility of support. If we can push them over the edge, they would bring us to 49 Senators, only one vote short of passage under reconciliation. Further, Senators like Mark Begich and Blanche Lincoln are also rocking on the fence.
The bottom line is that we are very close to 50 public option supporters in the Senate, and also closing in on using the 50-vote threshold to pass a public option in the Senate. Help push us over the edge by sending faxes to twelve of the remaining undecided Senators:
This is a winnable fight. Keep sending in faxes, and keep sending us Senators statements and responses. Post comments here, send an email to Response@DemocracyforAmerica.com or go to http://healthcareforamericanow.org/page/s/swdd. Anything that you can find helps us move closer to our goal.