Earth to Sen. Bennet: You Now Have Absolutely No Reason to Not Offer the Public Option Amendment

by: David Sirota

Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 17:30


NOTE: Tomorrow (Wednesday, 3/24) at 11am, I will be delivering a petition signed by at least 35,000 Americans in just four days asking Senator Bennet to follow through on his promise and introduce a public option amendment. I am asking as many people in the Denver metro area to be there with me at Bennet's office at 2300 15th Street in Denver. I hope to see you there.

Facing an increasingly difficult Democratic primary challenge, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) has spent the last many weeks trumpeting himself as the Senate's main champion of the public option, issuing a letter demanding a reconciliation vote on the public option. For this, he has - deservedly - received a lot of laudatory press coverage, including from me on my AM760 radio show and in my syndicated newspaper column. For his efforts, he garnered praise from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and positive stories like this one in the Denver Post in February:

Sen. Bennet pushing reconciliation vote; public option

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is pressing colleagues to use a procedural tool known as reconciliation to pass stalled health reform legislation - and to include the controversial public insurance option in the bill.

This week, Senator Bennet will have the opportunity to offer the public option amendment in the 51-vote reconciliation environment - that is, the environment in which it has the best chance to pass. However, Sen. Bennet's staff is now saying that Bennet will not, in fact, offer the public option amendment.

Yesterday, with Bennet's primary challenger Andrew Romanoff (D) demanding Bennet follow through on his public-option promise, Politico reported that his campaign manager suggested Bennet would not offer the amendment because "we're not going (to) kill the bill to make a point." Today in the Denver Post, his Senate spokeswoman "that trying to fix the bill at this point is too risky" and that offering the public option amendment would "recklessly sacrifice this bill while tens of thousands of Coloradans are losing their health insurance and seniors are facing critical decisions about their medication."

These are tough-sounding words - except there's just one problem: I just received a fundraising letter from Sen. Michael Bennet following President Obama's signing of the health care bill - a letter that that accurately notes that "Health Care is Law." This letter says:

The passage of this bill is one of the biggest legislative accomplishments in generations. It will have a massive impact on millions of lives and will pave the way for future, better, reform. We should savor this victory, even if there are parts of the bill that are far from perfect.

In fact, the most disappointing part of this bill for me is something that isn't in it -- a public option. With this first hurdle now behind us, I will continue to push for new legislation, such as a public option, that improves our health care system.

So let's get this straight: The major portion of health care reform has indeed passed - I repeat: THE MAJOR PORTION OF HEALTH CARE REFORM HAS INDEED PASSED, AS EVIDENCED BY THE BIG SIGNING CEREMONY TODAY; Sen. Bennet is celebrating it's passage; he is stating that "the most disappointing part of this bill" is that it doesn't include a public option and he promises that he "will continue to push for a public option." And yet, even as he promises to "continue to push" for a public option, he is refusing to offer a public option amendment right now when it has the best chance of passing (ie. only needing 51 votes, rather than 60 later), somehow claiming that offering a public option amendment to a separate reconciliation "fix" bill would kill a bill that he acknowledges has already passed.

My guess is Bennet is following the Democratic leadership's orders not to offer any amendments - as the leadership is trying to prevent the separate reconciliation bill from having to be voted on again in the House (even though the House, of course, has already proven it has the votes for a public option when it passed one months ago). But, then, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is now predicting that some Republican amendments may pass and therefore be added to the separate Senate reconciliation bill, meaning that bill will likely be forced to go back to the House anyway. In other words, even the process rationale for Bennet not to offer the amendment - "we don't want to have to send it back to the House" - is likely out the window because the bill will be sent back to the House anyway.

So what is really going on here? Increasingly, it looks like Bennet is trying to trick Colorado Democratic primary voters and appease the insurance industry at the same time. To voters, he wants to look like he's a champion of the public option. But in order to prevent offending the insurance industry, he is refusing to even offer the public option legislation when it has the best chance of passing - that is, in the 51-vote reconciliation environment. Instead, he says he'll "continue to push it" later - of course, later is when it will need 60 votes which both he and the insurance industry knows will be all but impossible to achieve.

The real question is whether or not Colorado voters will be fooled? It's hard to say. But if he really doesn't offer the amendment, it is a blatant admission by Bennet that the fix was in from the get go - that his letter on the public option that he got so much press attention for was all kabuki theater.

I'm still hoping Bennet offers the public option amendment. I mean that honestly - I'm not just saying that. I've gotten the sense that he's a guy who wants to do the right thing - but we're going to have to see if he's willing to offend the Washington Establishment to put action behind his public-option words. Stay tuned - and sign the petition demanding he follow through.

David Sirota :: Earth to Sen. Bennet: You Now Have Absolutely No Reason to Not Offer the Public Option Amendment

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Sure he does. (4.00 / 2)
If he offers it and passes, the House likely will not support it and we will have no reconciliation bill, as you must know.

Bennet may well have been playing games.  But so is this a game.

I'll take the recon bill with no amendments.  


We still have a bill (4.00 / 2)
The Senate will have to remove the amendment - should be easy if the House refuses. Then it passes. Remember the reconciliation fixes are quite popular - will will get most of them through one way or another.

If the Republicans manage to squeeze a few amendments through (I wouldn't be surprised; there's got to be something popular they can propose) then the Senate really should, as a matter of fairness, add on something from the House bill missing in the passed Senate bill. The public option would be ideal from a political, policy, and political standpoint.


[ Parent ]
Why won't the House support it? (4.00 / 3)
The House, as you know, was more in favor of the public option than the Senate ever was, and they passed a weak public option in their bill.

So why would the House reject a public option now when they've already voted for one and passed it before?


[ Parent ]
The theory is that the first vote just posturing (4.00 / 3)
Think of it as a version of Glenn Greenwald's theory of the Democrats in COngress. They pretend to want to pass something but never plan to pass it. . Part of that game is hot potato. The House will pass something but the Senate won't. The Senate will pass something but the House won't. Etc. WHen it became clear that the PO may be included in the Senate bill, supposed the Senate leadership whipped against it because they fired (due to the whip count) that it might actually pass.

[ Parent ]
By the way , one of the rare times you could see behind (4.00 / 2)
the curtains was with the drug re-importation bill. When it looked like the bill would pass the senate with actual bipartisan support, they delayed the vote.  

[ Parent ]
I agree, add PO to reconciliation (4.00 / 11)
I was against risking all of HCR on the PO, but the calculation is all different now.  The hard part is done, the new HC skeleton is in place.  The opportunity to make a major improvement is available right now.  Normally 60 votes are required in the Senate, but not this week.  Now is the time.

Also note that House members are being asked to stick around this weekend for another vote, in case a "tweak" is needed.  If another vote is required anyway, put in the damn PO.


He won't defy the president. But, I agree with you. (4.00 / 2)
If progressives (I use that term loosely now a days) had any thing at all in the way of actually caring to pass policy that matters, they would pass this.  

[ Parent ]
I am leaning toward this as well. (4.00 / 3)
Now that the bill is law, and talk of changing the Reconciliation bill won't spook House Dems, there is much less risk in adding the Public Option to the Reconciliation bill.  I still worry that the Reconciliation bill could go down with the PO included, but the potential reward might now outweigh the risk.

Alternatively, we could pass it by including instructions in this year's budget and passing a reconciliation bill later this year.

Also, a mea culpa:
Altmire and Boucher, two anti-PO Dems whose votes I thought we would need, didn't vote for the bill anyway.  It seems much more likely, after the vote, that the coalition that passed the PO is still intact.  I think it is worth giving it a try now.

All that said, I think Romanoff is full of shit.

We PTDB! Now, let's pass Grayson's Public Option Act!


[ Parent ]
Won't work (4.00 / 2)
Alternatively, we could pass it by including instructions in this year's budget and passing a reconciliation bill later this year.

You can only pass one reconciliation bill per budget. The DNC used theirs on this awful Save Health Insurance Today act.


[ Parent ]
2011 Budget (4.00 / 1)
You can only pass one reconciliation bill per budget.

Congress has not yet passed their 2011 budget, which they will presumably need to do this year.

The Reconciliation Act that Congress is considering right now is the result of the budget bill passed last year, for FY 2010.

We PTDB! Now, let's pass Grayson's Public Option Act!


[ Parent ]
Popularity (4.00 / 3)
Also, with victory on HCR, the bill is now magically more popular, just as expected.  That should make the votes just that much easier to get.

There should be a health care related item in the budget for reconciliation, anyway.  Until the Senate drops the filibuster, that should just be the norm.


[ Parent ]
I'm glad to see people come around to the idea of kill-the-(reconciliation)bill (4.00 / 2)
I agree with the reasoning that the reconciliation bill is a much smaller and thus much less riskier bill to hold hostage.  Unfortunately, this plan runs into the problem of liberals wanting the bill more anyway than centrists do.  Despite what some said, this wasn't as much the case with the comprehensive bill since centrists needed it to pass as well, in order to save their asses in November.  That's why I think we should've held the comprehensive bill hostage - because it mattered much more to centrists than the reconciliation fix does.

That said, we should still try the plan anyway.

And yeah, I wonder if Romanoff would be doing things any differently if he were the incumbent in office.  Still, even if Romanoff is exactly the same as Bennet, Romanoff running to Bennet's left and winning would show the power of the Left.  That's valuable even if Romanoff himself ends up not being a liberal once in office.


[ Parent ]
Nebraska Kickback (4.00 / 1)
Fortunately, the Republicans have done our job for us, making sure the conservadems vote for the reconciliation.

[ Parent ]
Strangely, the House Conservadems didn't (0.00 / 0)
In the Senate only Lincoln and Nelson-NE are opposing (Landrieu is onboard enthusiastically (feigned?)) and they seem determined to commit political seppaku. Nelson already took a lot of heat for the "Cornhusker Kickback", even in Nebraska, and here he is going out on a limb for it again.

[ Parent ]
True (4.00 / 1)
Still, I think it helps keep those that already voted for it in line.

[ Parent ]
"kill-the-(reconciliation)bill" (4.00 / 1)
Not sure I would characterize my position as that.  If I thought this was certain to kill the bill, I wouldn't support this path.

That said, whatever your and my reasoning is, I am glad we seem to be on common ground at this point.

Bennet has been far better ever since the primary forced him to start actually taking stances.  On that I am in full agreement.

We PTDB! Now, let's pass Grayson's Public Option Act!


[ Parent ]
Haven't we seen this movie before? (4.00 / 2)
My guess is Bennet is following the Democratic leadership's orders not to offer any amendments - as the leadership is trying to prevent the separate reconciliation bill from having to be voted on again in the House (even though the House, of course, has already proven it has the votes for a public option when it passed one months ago). But, then, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is now predicting that some Republican amendments may pass and therefore be added to the separate Senate reconciliation bill, meaning that bill will likely be forced to go back to the House anyway. In other words, even the process rationale for Bennet not to offer the amendment - "we don't want to have to send it back to the House" - is likely out the window because the bill will be sent back to the House anyway.

"Oh I'm sorry, we can't have votes on the Weiner and Kucinich amendments because we can't have votes on ANY amendments, since the eeeevil Republicans will just throw all kinds of amendments in there.  Oh what's that Bart Stupak?  You want a vote on your amendment?  Oh okay, no problem there, you lovable non-DFH!"

I've seen this all before, and I'm not buying it.


well, in all likelihood, Reid made a deal (0.00 / 0)
with the House to pass what they send.  If they did, then I can't support screwing with the deal.  and it's not the kind of deal you want to make explicitly public, even though it's been strongly implied.

There is zero chance of the public option succeeding in the House if this reconciliation bill goes back to them with such an amendment.  If you don't agree with that assessment, then we'll have to agree to disagree.  And I don't believe there is much upside to drawing out the process for another month, which is what would happen if a PO amendment passed.  It could only sour the public on the law and right now they are starting to be inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Doing the PO amendment now would IMO reduce or delay the long term chances of making fixes to the law.

Want a progressive global warming novel, not a right wing rant? Go to www.edwardgtalbot.com for a free audio thriller.


Perhaps; re: last sentence (0.00 / 0)
Doing the PO amendment now would IMO reduce or delay the long term chances of making fixes to the law.

I don't agree with the rest, but I'll admit this last sentence is something that concerns me.  Would putting in the level-playing-field PO this week make Medicare Buy-in for All easier or harder to add later?  I honestly don't know.


[ Parent ]
We can always try putting a Medicare Buy-in in reconciliation (0.00 / 0)
Let the conservadems run against Medicare.  Go right ahead.

[ Parent ]
A level-playing-field public option in the hand... (4.00 / 4)
is worth a Medicare buy-in in the bush.  

[ Parent ]
Yeah, pushing for something that has 60-65% public support (4.00 / 3)
is really a sure-fire way to get the people upset.

[ Parent ]
Interesting quote (4.00 / 2)
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said Tuesday he didn't think the Senate would change the bill, but if so, the House would be prepared to vote on the revised bill and send it to Obama.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITI...


Barbara Boxer (4.00 / 2)
should be pushed on this too. She's vulnerable this fall and needs strong progressive support.

See Ya Tomorrow, David... (0.00 / 0)
in the snow storm.  (It's snowing like crazy in Denver right now.)  Should make for good media, if any can be bothered to cover it.

Decarbonize, Deglobalize, Demilitarize

See you there (0.00 / 0)
Should be interesting.

[ Parent ]
Another fraud (4.00 / 1)
parading as a progressive fighter

He has a very good reason for not offering a public option. (4.00 / 2)
The Democratic Party is against it.

we are suppose to pretend that is not the case (4.00 / 2)
Thus, the same people above now who love the idea, but when it was viable, said it would destroy the bill.  

[ Parent ]
Risk (0.00 / 0)
...

eh, never mind.  I explained my reasoning above.


[ Parent ]
Yes, I know progressives are extremely risk adverse (4.00 / 1)
 Big Tent says it more succinctly than I can (which is why I quote him a lot):

"I certainly accept Silver's point that the bargaining strategies I have argued for carried risk. And not insignificant risk. But to get in the game, progressives will have to take some risk. No risk, no reward. Certainly if you believe that status quo of the political bargaining dynamics is unacceptable, you must be willing to try something new."

I accept that you think of as high risk too Mark. The problem is that it was not high risk. Just some risk.  

If you don't take meaningful risk when it matters, it is hard to negotiate for better outcomes against the status quo. Conservative betting favors the status quo. That's why all the organization in the world does not matter if you are not willing to take reasonable risks.

Liberal betting favors growth of power and influence. Right now, I don't see what you have to bargain with here. Whereas before passage, you did. Maybe you can tell me what you think you have to negotiate with here.


[ Parent ]
If you were right... (0.00 / 0)
...which you are not, then the public option never would have been viable.  Not in the future, not now, and not before the bill passed into law.  All the gamesmanship in the world would not have changed that.  Even if you were right, the path you advocate would not have brought you what you desire.

Also, please stop questioning others' motives, it's quite annoying.

We PTDB! Now, let's pass Grayson's Public Option Act!


[ Parent ]
I think what he's saying is that PO supporters had more leverage (4.00 / 1)
back with the comprehensive bill, since that was a "must-pass" bill for everyone.

Now the reconciliation bill is clearly less important, so we don't have the same kind of leverage.

That's what I think, anyway.

bruhrabbit, correct me if I mangled your meaning.


[ Parent ]
That's what you've been saying. (0.00 / 0)
And yours is an argument with merit, though I think you overestimate how much this bill was a must-pass for the shakey conservadems.  On the other hand I misread whose votes we needed to pass the bill, because I did not expect Stupak's group to vote for the bill in the end.  So I admit I could be wrong.

I do know that with the hard part out of the way, the PO still popular, and the coalition that passed the PO seemingly still intact, that it is a strong possibility to pass the house in Reconciliation.  The main bill was unpopular, but Congress is dying to enact the reconciliation fix.

bruhrabbit's assertion seems to be that Dems are all conspiring to kill the PO.  If that's the case, the PO has always been doomed no matter what kind of hardball progressive activists want to play.   It is counterproductive.

We PTDB! Now, let's pass Grayson's Public Option Act!


[ Parent ]
I love the way peo toss around conspiracy when one is talking about actual (4.00 / 1)
people, events and actions. You make it sound like this requires some vast underground hidden network. How many people do you think are in the DEmocratic leadership, and do you seriously believe they don't talk to each other?  

[ Parent ]
Why? (0.00 / 0)
What would be Pelosi/Reid/Obama's motivation for killing the PO?  Show me why you think they've acted mendaciously.

Prove your point.  You speak of people, events, and actions.  I now know who...Democratic Leaders.  Ok, what are the events and actions you speak of.  If it's not some grand conspiracy, you should easily be able to give me specifics.

We PTDB! Now, let's pass Grayson's Public Option Act!


[ Parent ]
I am not going to show you shit. If at this point you are still (4.00 / 1)
 posting such b.s., you are not worth anyone's time much less mine.  

[ Parent ]
Well Obama is pretty obvious (4.00 / 1)
I mean, come on.

I think Reid wants a PO, but doesn't care to really put things on the line.  That's why he offered one in the Senate bill but now is saying that Democrats have to kill it if it's offered as an amendment.

Pelosi wants one too, obviously, but I don't understand why she couldn't include one in the reconciliation bill.  Would it really have threatened passage of the comprehensive bill?  And she keeps pointing fingers at the Senate (who points them right back) which looks pretty absurd at this point.

I wouldn't go so far as to say there was some kind of grand conspiracy, at least not beyond the President and Max Baucus.  I think it's obvious everyone involved doesn't want to deal with the "hassle" of a PO, but no one wants responsibility for killing it either, hence all the ridiculous finger-pointing.  As to whether we as activists can change that, we probably could, but only if we collectively wholesale revolt against the Democratic Party.  Because of all the disgusting sycophantism towards President Obama and the Democrats, this is clearly not going to happen.  However, activists were the ones responsible for getting the PO this far.  If we want to take it over the top, we probably have to start threatening to stay home or vote minor party this fall if a PO is not passed.  How many of us are willing to make that pledge?


[ Parent ]
That's accurate. (4.00 / 1)
Talk left is talking about a way that this could open up- that is if the GOP manages to include amendments. Then there's leverage.  

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, how does that produce leverage? (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
re: leverage (0.00 / 0)
because it would have to go back to the house and the senate dems couln't say 'we are voting no so the bill doesn't go back to the house' ?

[ Parent ]
Maybe you should go after Sanders too, (0.00 / 0)
unless this is just primary campaigning...

There is no risk to this. (4.00 / 2)
If the House balks, the Senate can just go back and un-amend it and pass the House version.

There is no risk. Do it.


Intermediate position? (0.00 / 0)
If he won't agree to offer the amendment outright, can you ask him to offer it only if Republicans manage to amend the bill in such a way that it has to go back to the House anyway?  That is, if but for his amendment the reconciliation bill doesn't need to go back to the House, it's going to be pretty darn hard for him to offer it or for the amendment to pass; but if the reconciliation bill is already doomed to go back to the House, then that argument against offering it is obviated.  It will be much harder for him to come up with an excuse for not offering it under those more limited circumstances.

sanders should offer the erisa fix too (4.00 / 4)
come on bernie

the house wants to pass reconciliation to remove some things the senate put there (0.00 / 0)
so there is some additional leverage to vote yes for a reconciliation with po in

Link? (0.00 / 0)
I hadn't heard of this.

It was my understanding that the House did not want to vote again.  Do you have a link?

We PTDB! Now, let's pass Grayson's Public Option Act!


[ Parent ]
you need a link? (0.00 / 0)
didn't the senate put in the nebraska deal, increased excise tax, and whatever else I'm forgetting now, which the house wants to remove?

[ Parent ]
and I didn't say they want to vote again (0.00 / 0)
but if the senate puts a po in, they want it to pass so the bad stuff gets removed. so we may have some more leverage.

[ Parent ]
I misunderstood what you were saying. (0.00 / 0)
Agreed, house wants to pass the reconciliation bill, so there is leverage there.

We PTDB! Now, let's pass Grayson's Public Option Act!

[ Parent ]
There is no leverage to change the agreed upon deal unless others (4.00 / 1)
see that they are getting more from it than the PO. HEre, that deal would be if some other aspect is made more conservative, etc.  

[ Parent ]
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