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From Blue Virginia, I think we had a major breakthrough tonight on the whip count, with Senator Warner indicating that he will not vote against a health care bill with a public option in it:
Well now, after just getting off the phone with Senator Warner's office, I can confirm that this is correct information - in the end, the public option is not a "make or break" for Warner one way or the other and he WILL vote for a health care reform bill with a public option in there. Good news.
So far in the Senate whip count, we had been looking for Senators who would had statements or votes in favor of a non-trigger public option. This statement is not as strong, but given how close we are to 50, I think it is just as useful.
At this point, just finding another six Senators who will not vote against a health care bill with a public option is just as good as finding another six Senators coming out in favor of the public option. We should have enough supporters of the public option in the Senate to force a vote on it. If we can just find another five Senators who might not advocate for the public option, but who will not vote against it when the time comes, then we still have enough support to pass it through the Senate.
After reaching 45 supporters last week, not only had the whip count stagnated, but the death of Senator Kennedy actually moved it back to 44. With Senator Warner's statement, we can consider ourselves back to 45. I will put Warner in a new category "won't vote against," showing that he is not exactly a supporter, but that where he is will be good enough for now.
Perhaps most importantly, I think that the way Blue Virginia got Senator Warner on the record can be replicated for other wavering Senators, allowing us to get to 50 as early as next week. At this point, instead of looking for supporters of the public option, maybe we should just be asking Senators to say they won't vote against a bill with a public option in it. Not only is that an easier statement to make, it is very close to what Senators like Baucus, Carper, Tester and Wyden have already said. With those four votes, we would really be on the brink.
Of course, before making these changes, I would like to hear your thoughts on this new strategy. Please let me know what you think in the comments.