Today's whip count update includes anew html chart, a full explanation of the new category created by Senator Mark Warner, and notes that not a single Senate Democrat has come out in full opposition to the public option.
1. New Whip Count Chart
The new whip count chart is up, and can be found in the extended entry.
2. Warner's New Category
As originally reported by Blue Virginia, Senator Mark Warner has confirmed that he will not vote against a public option, and will vote in favor of a public option that holds down the cost of premiums. While this is not equal to a full statement of triggerless public option support that we had been seeking, as I discussed last night, during our final push to 50, it is good enough to remove Warner from the "maybe" column, and place him in a new category ("won't vote against") that is equivalent to "yes." Let me explain why.
First, a public option will keep down costs, as even opponents of the plan admit. In fact, that is the main argument against a public option--it would offer such low cost health insurance that people would leave private insurers in droves. Second, saying you will not vote against a health care bill with a public option means either that you will vote "yes" when presented with such a bill, or not vote at all. However, not voting on legislation of this historic magnitude is, at best, an extremely remote possibility for any Seantor.
Senators who are sitting on the Max Baucus's Finance Committee are not eligible for this category. This includes the six "maybes" who are on that committee: Max Baucus, Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Ron Wyden. is because those Senators are still in a position to pass a bill out of that committee without a public option, while Senators not on the Finance Committee are not. If you are in a position to avoid a vote on the public option ever happening, then simply saying you will not vote against a public option isn't good enough for the whip count.
This is why Senator Ron Wyden has not been added to the "won't vote against" / "yes" column. While Senator Wyden has made a statement that is substantively identical to Warner's--he will vote for a public option that keeps down the cost of premiums-since he sits on the Finance Committee, that just isn't good enough.
3. No Democratic Senators Oppose the Public Option
Despite regular claims from Senators like Kent Conrad and Village insiders like George Stephanopoulos that there are not enough votes to pass a public option through the Senate, it is worth noting that not a single Senate Democrat, nor Republican Olympia Snowe, has come out in opposition to the public option. Our whip count shows that the only three "no" votes in our target universe are Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, plus Connecticut Connecticut for Lieberman Senate Joe Lieberman (that is actually the correct way to describe Lieberman, I believe). Counting Ted Kennedy's replacement, that still leaves 60 Senators who are either "yes" or "maybe" on the public option.
Given that it is possible to pass a public option through reconciliation, the Senators and Democratic media types making this claim are protecting one or more Democrats who are "no" votes from the wrath of the Democratic rank and file. Unless claims that there are not enough for the public option are just wrong, then they know specific Democrats who are opposed and are not telling the public who those Democrats are. This leads one to believe that the Democratic leadership and Democratic elite are once again protecting center-right Democrats from potential accountability to the Democratic base.
The best solution I can think of to this problem is to force a vote on the public option in the Senate. Surely the public option has dominated debate enough, and has enough supporters in the Senate (a public option passed the Senate HELP committee, for crying out loud), that even if a bill without a public option does not go to the floor there will still be an amendment to the bill that makes all Senators record a vote on the public option. No matter the outcome of this fight, there is no way that any Democratic Senator should be allowed to avoid a vote on the public option. After everything that grassroots progressives have done for the Democratic Party, that is a bare minimum level of accountability that is required from the leadership and the party as a whole.
The new whip count chart can be found in the extended entry.