|Let's start for a moment with a whip count other than the one we have been running. Today, the Washington Independent has published a "Senate Public Option Scoreboard," detailing the public statements of all 99 Senators. The Scoreboard lists 47 supporters, 38 opponents, and 14 fence sitters. It seems pretty accurate, but does need a few tweaks:
So, even after the tweaks to the Washington Independent's ccoreboard, we are back at 47. I guess we agree on the number, if not the specific Senators. Here are a bunch of "maybes" from their list that I think are likely "no" votes to a triggerless public option through reconciliation:
- 48--Claire McCaskill is a yes, not a maybe. Back in May, Claire McCaskill was one of the 28 Demcorats to sign onto the Kennedy-Brown resolution that strongly supported a public option.
- 49--Max Baucus is a yes, not a maybe. Even though Max Baucus is working to kill the public option before it reaches the floor, it seems impossible for him to vote against a public option that does reach the floor, given that he has declared "I want a public option too!" Hard to get any clearer than that. So, we have Baucus's vote--if a public option reaches the floor.
- 48--Bill Nelson is a no, not a yes. I have never seen Nelson signal support of a public option. Further, he has said he has helped to prepare the Baucus draft, and sent some pretty consistent hints that he is opposed. Right now, I consider him a no.
- 47--Robert Byrd is a no, not a yes. We have to use reconciliation to pass a public option, as there are not 60 votes for a public option in the Senate. While it seems likely that Senator Byrd supports a public option in theory, he simply will not get out of his bed and vote "yes" to a public option through reconciliation. He actually switched his vote on the budget from "yes" to "no" earlier this year when the health care reconciliation was added to the Senate version.
That said, he probably isn't getting out of his hospital bed to come in and vote "no," either. If Byrd does not vote, that means only 50 votes are required to pass the Senate, not 51.
Some of these Senators are openly undecided, and might have voted for a triggerless public option in some circumstances. However, it is extremely unlikely that any one of them will put their neck on the line as the deciding factor in a 51-50, 51-49, 50-49, or 50-48 reconciliation vote. Since any scenario to pass the public option will almost certainly require reconciliation and end with one of those four vote totals in the Senate (thereby allowing the maximum possible Democrats to show their "independence" from the rest of the party), don't expect any of these Senators to vote in favor.
- Evan Bayh is "agnostic," but he voted against the budget that had reconciliation in it. As such, don't expect him to be #51.
- Tom Carper (trigger only)
- Kent Conrad (has declared public option "dead")
- Mary Landrieu (even though she was a "yes" in the spring)
- Joe Lieberman is simply opposed.
- George LeMieux. No link, but there is no way that any Republican votes for a public option through reconciliation.
- Blanche Lincoln can't be expected to be #51 given her recent statements and that she is up for re-election.
- Ben Nelson (trigger only)
- Olympia Snowe (trigger-less trigger only)
This puts us at 47 in favor, 49 opposed (or 48, if Byrd doesn't vote), 3 on the fence, and 1 vacant. While this seems dire, all of the remaining people on the fence have stated that there are types of triggerless public options they could support:
All of these statements indicate that there is some form of a triggerless public option that these Senators could support. This brings us to 50 supporters of some sort of triggerless public option, 49 or 48 opponents (depending on if Senator Byrd votes), and one vacancy. With no undecideds left, that is enough for passage.
- Jon Tester says there are conditions under which he can support it:
"I don't need it either way," Tester told The Associated Press between meetings with constituents. "I could either support it or not support it."
- Mark Begich, through his office, said there are conditions under which he can support it:
[U]ntil Senator Begich sees how a public option is proposed to be paid for in the final bill that comes before the Senate, he is not committing to supporting a public option.
- Mark Pryor, through his office, has said there are conditions under which he could support it:
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."
This is the case even if Senator Byrd rises from the hospital to vote no and even if Pryor flips like he did on EFCA. In that scenario, there is still one more option:
BOSTON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Massachusetts lawmakers could narrowly pass a bill this week to name an interim senator to replace the late Edward Kennedy and keep warm a key Democratic Senate seat as President Barack Obama's healthcare bill looms.(...)
"It's tight (but) the opposition is lessening," Democratic state Senator Thomas P. Kennedy, co-chair of a joint committee on election laws, told Reuters on Wednesday.(...)
While Massachusetts Republicans say they will try and stall the bill if it passes, Democrats say they could still have a replacement for Kennedy within a couple of weeks.
With another Senator in favor of the public option likely to come into the Senate in two or three weeks, and with Vice-President Biden available to cast a tie-breaking vote, a public option could still overcome joint opposition from Senators Byrd and Pryor.
In conclusion, here are the scenarios to pass the bill, all of which assume that Senator Pryor votes "no":
The public option that would pass under these scenarios may not yet be written into any bill. Still, we have the statements to prove that it is at least possible to pass some sort of triggerless public option through one of these three paths.
- 51-50, with an interim Kennedy appointment voting yes, Senator Byrd voting no, and Vice-President Biden casting the tie-breaker.
- 50-49, with an interim Kennedy appointment voting yes, and Senator Byrd not voting at all.
- 50-49, with no interim appointment, Senator Byrd not voting, and Vice-President Biden casting a tie-breaker.
As a final note, remember that while it is possible to pass a public option through reconciliation, the same can not be said for passing the Baucus bill with 60 votes, or passing a bill without a public option through the House at all.