Okay, folks, we progressives got what we wanted. A comprehensive health care reform bill with a reasonably strong public option will be going to the floor as part of leadership bills in both the House and the Senate. We don't yet know whether we will get the best version of the public option in the House bill, and the Senate version is not as strong as progressives have been pushing for. But strengthening the form of the public option can be negotiated over in conference committee, once we get there.
For now, we can thank Harry Reid (HCAN has a page here) and Nancy Pelosi for their gutsy leadership, and fight like hungry dogs to win the floor fight and deliver on this hope. In the coming weeks we will have an all-hands-on-deck, all out public war with the insurance industry over whether we finally pass comprehensive health care reform or once again fall short at the bitter end after coming so far.
Here's where things are as we head into the floor fight:
1. White House staffers confirmed for me this afternoon that they are backing Harry Reid's decision "100 percent." Now that's not to say they aren't a little nervous about it. I suspect that there are still some feelings by some people working in that building that progressives should have given up and rolled over, and let them cut a deal with Olympia Snowe on her trigger-written-never-to-trigger. That would have been easier than sweating what will undoubtedly be a very tough battle to get all 60 Democrats to go along with the rest of the party. But us irritating progressive folk got in the way of doing that, and now Obama knows it's time to stand and deliver. I believe my friends at the White House when they say they will do an all-out fight for this bill. They know that starting down this path, and not being able to pull it off, would be a huge embarrassment and destroy all the momentum we've built by making it this far. They are all-in, and know how much is at stake. Rahm Emanuel and Jim Messina are famous for twisting arms and doing everything in their power to get the votes that are needed, and now is their time to deliver.
2. The entire progressive movement has to go all-in supporting an up or down vote on health care reform. We should try to strengthen this bill with an amendment strategy on the floor, and we should be prepared to fight for a strong, tough negotiation strategy in conference committee. But first, we should be putting every ounce of work, dollars, and muscle we can to convince all the Democrats in the Senate to support Reid on the cloture vote in the Senate. The White House and Reid are on the line to deliver, but so are we. This is a history- making fight, one of those huge moments in American history, and if we win, this progressive movement will be written about in the history books the way the big change movements of the 1960s, 1930s, 1900s, and 1860s are. This is our time to deliver, too.
3. Senate Democrats who are reluctant to support this need to be clear: there are plenty of things none of us like in this big, sprawling bill. Personally, I think the idea that states could opt out of the public option is a tragedy, and I will fight for a better bill in conference committee. There are plenty of other provisions I don't love as well. But to step on history, to stop the entire rest of the Democratic party from making history because you don't like one provision in a bill, is fundamentally wrong. Go ahead and vote against it on an up or down vote, but do not stop this incredibly important, incredibly historic bill with a filibuster. And as a loyal Democrat who wants all Democrats to win, I want you waverers to be very clear about the political consequences. There is a huge political upside to supporting Reid on cloture, and an even bigger downside to not doing so. I don't speak for the entire progressive movement at all, but I have spent my life working in it, and have a pretty good sense of it, and I will tell you this: this is of truly massive importance to progressives. If you think this is just another issue, you are dead wrong. You will be helping yourself an enormous amount with progressives by letting this vote happen, and letting the Democratic party and the president get a huge win. It would be harder to raise money for anyone running a primary against you and easier to get our help in any tough general election you might face. On the other hand, if you screw us on this issue, you are opening yourself up for enormous political problems. The odds of serious primaries, with a ton of funding, go up dramatically, just as the odds of ever getting help in a tough general election fight go steeply down. The likelihood of people and organizations trying to block anything politically you are trying to get for your state go up exponentially, from judges you are trying to get appointed to highway money you are trying to get. Look, I am not trying to make threats here at all, I am just a lowly consultant. What I am suggesting is that everyone in the progressive movement is going to have very, very long memories about this highest of high priorities for us.
This is the fight of our lives, and after all the preliminaries, we have made it to the finals. Reid and Pelosi have delivered. The White House is ready to roll. Now let's get this done.