In the post just below this one, I argue that having a public option in the health care bill the Budget committee sends to the floor of the Senate is the only realistic path to having a public option pass in health care reform. In fact, even beyond the public option, don't expect any significant improvements on the final bill President Obama signs into law from the one released by the Senate Budget committee.
The bill the Senate Budget committee sends to the floor will be a merged version of the Senate HELP and Senate Finance committee bills. The merging will take place largely under the direction of Senate majority leader Harry Reid. As such, commenter danthrax notes an important point of leverage the progressive grassroots has in this process:
if reid is the only way forward...
we may have a hope. Reid is up for a tough re-election fight
That is exactly right. If Harry Reid is the key choke point in this fight, then we have to use Reid's uphill re-election prospects as our point of leverage:
Polling against one announced Republican candidate, Danny Tarkanian, and one Republican candidate who has formed an exploratory committee, Sue Lowden, shows Senator Reid to be in a lot of trouble. In three polls, Reid trails by an average of 7.7% to Tarkanian, and by 5.8% across four polls to Lowden.
Further, should Reid lose, Senators Richard Durbin (#2 in the leadership, key Obama ally) and Charles Schumer (#3 in the leadership, chair of DSCC during 2006-2008 landslides) are by far the most likely candidates to succeed Reid as Majority Leader. Either would be an improvement on Reid.
Why should we activists bother to give Reid the support he needs to pull victory from the jaws of defeat if he is likely to be replaced by a more progressive, more aggressive, and electorally safe Democrat like Durbin or Schumer? Reid needs to give us a good reason to try and save his Senate position. If he decides to take the public option out of the health care bill before it reaches the Senate floor, what possible reason could be left to try and help him?
I, for one, am fine with a caucus that has 2-3 fewer Democrats, but a much better majority leader. I am also fine with working hard to elect Democrats who may not be progressive champions, but who do a good job of enacting progressive change in legislation. If enough progressive activists feel the same way and can make their positions clear, then we have a real stick and a real carrot in this fight.
Any suggestions on how to use this leverage effectively?