Public Option Stays Very Much Alive

by: Mike Lux

Tue Sep 29, 2009 at 17:39

As Chris noted, today we lost two amendment votes in the Senate Finance Committee on the public option, one offered by Sen. Rockefeller (8 ayes, 15 nays), and one by Sen. Schumer (10 ayes, 13 nays). Traditional media outlets everywhere are reporting this is a massive defeat for the public option, but I don't see it that way- in fact quite the opposite.

I have said before (most recently here) that the Senate Finance Committee was conservative, in fact the most conservative committee makeup in the Senate, and that we would be likely to lose these votes:

With numbers like this, and with the entire Democratic base mobilized intensely around the issue, you would have to be politically tone deaf as a Democrat to oppose this, but this is the Senate Finance Committee, so public option advocates are likely to lose these votes. The question, though, will be the margin. On a committee this conservative, far more conservative than the Senate as a whole, if we only get seven votes for the public option amendments, that would have to be considered a major political victory, and a sign that the public option can definitely get a majority vote on the floor.

So getting 10 votes on this is promising for those of us who believe a public option is essential. Baucus, Conrad, Lincoln, Carper, and Bill Nelson are five of the ten most conservative Dems in the Senate, and on the Schumer amendment, even two of them went with us. President Obama is for it, a majority in the House is for it, and the whip count we're running right here at shows that 51 Democrats are in favor of it. And today Tom Harkin confirmed that our whip count is right:

"I have polled senators, and the vast majority of Democrats -- maybe approaching 50 -- support a public option," Harkin said told the liberal "Bill Press Radio Show." "So why shouldn't we have a public option? We have the votes.

"I believe we'll have the 60 votes, now that we have the new senator from Massachusetts, to at least get it on the Senate floor," Harkin later added. "But once we cross that hurdle, we only need 51 votes for the public option. And I believe there are, comfortably, 51 votes for a public option."

Will all this evidence, the public option will only be hard to beat if Democratic leaders decide they don't want to do it.

Mike Lux :: Public Option Stays Very Much Alive

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What would the death knell of the public option (0.00 / 0)
look like?

GOP majorities for years to come (4.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
No, that actually would be the RESULT of the death of the public option... (0.00 / 0)
I think the question was, essentially, "how can we tell, based on the votes, that the public option is effectively dead?"

My guess is that it will be the following scenario:  after the Baucus bill survives any of the major attempts to amend it in a more-progressive direction, "President" Snowe announces that she will vote in favor of passing it out of committee.  Suddenly, we'll have that "bipartisan" bill Blue Dogs have been dreaming about, and we'll also have 61 votes on cloture.  Given that, the Baucus bill will be presented to the Democratic rank-and-file as "the only bill we're going to be able to get past a filibuster," and count on their desperation to not be seen as having "failed to achieve health-care reform" to cause them to abandon their scruples and go along to get along.

Mark my words, if Snowe goes for the Baucus bill, that will be the bill that becomes law, and the public option will be dead, dead, dead.  :-(

[ Parent ]
What you say makes sense (4.00 / 1)
but does not account in any way for the very real power that the House has to affect the final content of any legislation.  

[ Parent ]
Bloggers (0.00 / 0)
making delusional claims that its not really over.

[ Parent ]
OK, that was snarky (0.00 / 0)
I'm sorry, it got the best of me, LOL. I couldn't resist.

[ Parent ]
I would like the SFC bill killed 17-5 on the final vote (4.00 / 2)
With Baucus, Conrad et al. the only ones voting in favor.

That would be very satisfying.

And a step in the right direction for progressives.  

Actually, hmm (0.00 / 0)
What happens then? If the finance committee can't pass a bill, will they just use the other committee's bill, or will we be stuck forever?

[ Parent ]
then the whole things just dies in committee (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Actually, if Finance doesn't report a bill (4.00 / 1)
I think the Senate can just import the House bill once it's finished, to vote on.  That bill might have a robust PO, as opposed to Level Playing Field, so it'd probably wouldn't get 50 votes unless we secure Begich, Tester and Warner to offset Carper and the Nelsons.

I think it would be hilarious if the Finance bill went down in flames with only those centrist idiots voting for it.  Now that'd be bipartisanship!

[ Parent ]
Yeah they CAN do that (0.00 / 0)
but when they have in the past, it has always failed.

[ Parent ]
Comment on Nate's analysis please? (4.00 / 2)
See his post here:

He is not optimistic about a meaningful public option based on what happened today:

1) A "robust" public option like Rockefeller's, which sets reimbursement at Medicare plus five percent and lacks a trigger, almost certainly will not pass the Senate. That this version of the public option failed to obtain any of the five or six plausible "swing votes" suggests that it probably wouldn't receive the support of more than about 47-48 members of the chamber.

2) A weak public option may still get 50 votes in the Senate, although it almost certainly won't get 60. There are still plenty of reasonable whip counts under which you can get into the range of 50-53 votes for a weak public option. It is not clear, however, whether 50 votes or 60 votes will ultimately be required for the inclusion of a public option; this may very much be up to Harry Reid and the floor leadership.

Nate should stick to polls (4.00 / 1)
He's been as negative as mainstream Beltway media types on this for months.

[ Parent ]
Today's vote (4.00 / 4)
makes what comes out of the House that much more crucial.

We can expect the so-called "moderates" to insist that the Finance Committee vote means that Schumer's plan is too radical and further "compromise" is required.  

House leadership must set the bar very high in terms of a real, effective public option so that the final bill is something really worth voting for.  

The majority of the majority... (4.00 / 3)
...Supports the public option. The Majority Leader should respect that.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

I don't know (4.00 / 8)

  If the Democratic Party doesn't stand for health care reform, does it stand for anything at all?

  This could very well be the death knell of the Democratic Party as a meaningful political entity. I'm not confident that Governor-General Obama or President Emanuel will be twisting arms in favor of a public option. It'll likely be the other way.

 The Progressive Bloc in the House is our Obi-Wan Kenobi.  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

I fear that the Senate Democrats don't stand for anything but personal self-preservation (4.00 / 3)
And, to quote someone famous (I forget who), "if a person stands for nothing, it usually means they'll fall for anything."

[ Parent ]
As best I can tell (4.00 / 3)
the Democratic Party stands for little more than "We aren't those OTHER guys."

[ Parent ]
As opposed to the GOP (0.00 / 0)
"We aren't the OTHER party! We're god-fearing American patriots."  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
is a label enough? (0.00 / 0)
so the best possible result in the Senate is that, somehow, the Schumer "level playing field" so-called public option is in the bill that they ultimately pass. right?

so that goes to conference with the House bill. let's continue our optimism and say that the House bill has something more like an actually viable public option plan - link to Medicare rates and providers, real subsidies, so forth.

do you think that the conference bill won't end up being watered down to the Senate level?

do you think the Progressive Block should vote for it anyway even if it doesn't meet their criteria for an acceptable bill? ("will they?" and "should they?" being different questions.)

if you are thinking something like, get anything passed now, and then improve it, how could any improvements get through the minority-rules Senate in the future if they can't get through it now?

after all, we are hardly likely to have a bigger/smarter/more-liberal Democratic majority there in the next 2 to 6 years. or are you looking at a longer time frame?

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

re: vote (4.00 / 3)
do you think the Progressive Block should vote for it anyway even if it doesn't meet their criteria for an acceptable bill?

no, they should kill it

[ Parent ]
improving it (0.00 / 0)
if you are thinking something like, get anything passed now, and then improve it, how could any improvements get through the minority-rules Senate in the future if they can't get through it now?

after all, we are hardly likely to have a bigger/smarter/more-liberal Democratic majority there in the next 2 to 6 years. or are you looking at a longer time frame?

I, too, am skeptical of the "pass it now, improve it later" strategy, because we seem to have a history of not going back to fix things.  Medicare Part D, for example.  When are we going to scrap the whole thing and just provide drug coverage directly through Medicare?

I do think it might be possible to get some more liberal, pro-PO Senators into office, though.  We can definitely take out Lieberman, and maybe Carper too.  Hopefully Paul Hodes, Robin Carnahan and Jennifer Brunner will be elected as well.

[ Parent ]
also (0.00 / 0)
as I said yesterday:

now big health loses customers every month and wants an individual mandate so we have leverage. if they get the individual mandate they will be in 'open war' mode if we try to add a public option.

[ Parent ]
Well I agree with this statement (4.00 / 5)
Will all this evidence, the public option will only be hard to beat if Democratic leaders decide they don't want to do it.

When talking about Democratic leaders I also include President Obama. We we soon see which group the WH choses to pressure to cave on their position.  

How very true. (4.00 / 1)
It's not just Reid or Pelosi that decides the final bill. Obama's involved as well, and that's why we need to keep targeting all three of them.

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

[ Parent ]
I'll keep bugging Mr. Majority Leader... (0.00 / 0)
You've got my word on that. And btw, I appreciated your earlier diary on Harry Reid. I totally understand your frustration, and I at least appreciated it not being reflexively "I HATE HIM!!!1111!!!!!111". (Hint: I found the Top Rec'ed Anti-Reid Rant at DKos today so laughably bad and fact-free that I nearly rec'ed it for its comedy.)

Still, I like the idea of a fund set up to help Reid if he delivers on the public option. If he doesn't, do something else with that money raised. But in the mean time, let all of us in Nevada keep bugging the hell out of him until he delivers. ;-)

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

Btw, I just got an email from Schumer's campaign... (4.00 / 1)
Here it is. Basically, he's still fighting for a good public option. While I much prefer Rockefeller's version, Schumer's is at least something we can work with.

Dear Andrew,

I wanted to give you quick update about our work to pass a public health care option.

My amendment to add a public option to the Senate Finance Committee bill came up just two votes short of being adopted by the full committee this afternoon.

This is unfortunate news but not a surprise. Remember, the Senate Finance Committee is more conservative than the Senate as a whole. And 4 out of 5 Congressional committees with jurisdiction over health care reform have passed a public option.

This is the opening day of our fight, and I will continue to work to improve the health care reform bill as we take the legislation to the Senate floor.

The more the people hear the facts about the public option, the more they support our efforts. We must continue to work together and speak out. If we continue to fight, I am confident we will pass health care reform with a robust public option.


Chuck Schumer
U.S. Senate

And you can donate here if you're impressed enough by him. ;-)

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

I got that one (4.00 / 2)
This morning I had bounced back one of his DSCC ones saying I'd contribute to Dems when they deliver HCR with a public option and not before. Not sure I ever got a Schumer campaign one before.

Wonder if they kept track of Dem resisters to build a list for the Senator's own committee???

Can it happen here?

[ Parent ]
Perhaps he's sharing with Gillibrand? (0.00 / 0)
If you've signed any of her online petitions, you were automatically added to her email list. She probably shared this list with Schumer.

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

[ Parent ]
meh democrats! (4.00 / 3)

you Democratic leaders cause me to meh all the way to the grocery store, you cause me to meh all the way back home. I meh at you in my sleep and when I read a book or a magazine or a blog entry by someone named paul, or david, or Chris.


To be honest (0.00 / 0)
I grew up around Republicans and they were meh about their party for the entire Republican majority from Reagan through Bush II, which occasional excitement depending on the year.  

[ Parent ]
Meh (4.00 / 4)
That is very true.  Republicans have never delivered the goods to their voters.  Abortion is still legal and teaching Creationism in public schools is not.  The IRS still exists as does Social Security and Medicare.

And yet, all those little changes, all the decisions made by those right of center instead of left, all those conservative court justices add up to a major change compared to what we get from Democrats.

Even a slight change in direction can have a radical effect on the final destination many years down the line.  Much like small adaptations made by species as they evolve.  At least, that is how I tend to think about it.

However, real evolutionary change tends to come in short, punctuated bursts.  As Mike has pointed out in his book, the same is true in politics.  You have to take advantage of those rare times when the environment is right for radical alteration.  So while my personal nature tends to think long term and appreciate those small changes in direction, I've come to realize the opportunity for something much better is currently available to us.  While I'm not yet a radical, I'm working on it.

[ Parent ]
re: change (0.00 / 0)
While I'm not yet a radical, I'm working on it.


[ Parent ]
that's what they did (0.00 / 0)
my grandmother was a Republican community leader in Nassau County, New York from 1978 to 2001. She said to me that in 1982, there were Republicans ready to throw in the towel, primary Reagan, Reagan's a failure, etc.  

[ Parent ]
Delivered (4.00 / 1)
Republicans may have delivered little to the fundy voters but they delivered huge tax cuts, deregulation, lack of oversight, and bountiful privatization to their funders.

Fundy, no; funders, si.

[ Parent ]
But even that wasn't enough for many of them (0.00 / 0)
much of the base only saw that stuff as centrist nonsense.

For instance, for many Republicans, the flat tax was their single payer.  

[ Parent ]
But the conference report can be filibustered (0.00 / 0)
Even if a public option amendment is added to the bill in the Senate and the bill passes, the conference report can still be filibustered.

Motions to proceed to the debate of a conference report are privileged and can't be filibustered, but the report itself can be. It took 60 votes to pass the conference report on the stimulus for example:

Well it took 60 votes to pass the stimulus (0.00 / 0)
because it spent on a deficit.  

[ Parent ]
how anyone believes ... (0.00 / 0)
... 2 defeats of the PO in one day is a good thing for the PO is incredible.

Expected defeats (4.00 / 1)
in one committee, it's not the end of the world, it's basically the fallback position.

Considering the odds were the Senate would never pass a public option at the beginning of this, and that it would never come up for a vote in Finance at all, it's not a setback, it's just not a great victory.

If you expected to win with 55% of the vote, and in the last days think you can get 60%, but end up getting 55%, is that a defeat?'s just disappointing because you upped your expectations.

[ Parent ]
Sorry to say so but its over - (0.00 / 0)
Look all this is wishful thinking - its fairly clear the public option is dead because the Obama White House wants it dead.

Its all downhill from now -

I'm not sure Obama wants it dead, or alive (0.00 / 0)
While he didn't take steps to kill it, neither did he try to save it. I think he wants a bill to sign so that he can declare victory but he doesn't want to get too involved in anything remotely controversial, so that he can try to maintain his "I'm above politics" position. That's why the WH hits back so hard on the issue of the alleged deals Obama has cut in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms, he wants a victory without his fingerprints on it.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
I suppose that's true (0.00 / 0)
While he certainly could have been stronger in support of the public option, he has also never been willing to completely let go of it either.  

Accuse me of glass-half-fullism, but what was the point of NOT dropping the whole idea months ago if that was his intention?

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Overtly dropping the so-called Public Option (0.00 / 0)
months ago would have created a situation where folks that prefer to see the glass half-full would not have been able to continue in that mode.  By taking no strong stands that were not contradicted by other statements, or "walking back" such comments, Obama could stay above the fray.

His intention seems to have been not to take any strong position beyond demanding that "something" be done and that it not be single payer. That includes strong stands against the PO.  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]

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