Senate Bill Going Back to the House - Can We Now Get a Public Option Vote?

by: David Sirota

Thu Mar 25, 2010 at 08:55

Let's take Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and some Colorado progressive groups at their word when they say the only reason they have previously opposed offering a public-option amendment to the Senate reconciliation bill is because if it passes, the bill would then have to be sent back to the House. They say that having to send it back to the House would "complicate" matters (which doesn't make much sense to me, considering the House is controlled by Democrats, and the House has already passed the public option...but I digress).

So fine - let's just for a moment take Bennet at his word that he's not trying to defend the insurance industry and take some Colorado progressive groups at their word that they aren't simply bowing down to their Democratic bosses and their Big Donors.

OK - so what about now?

Byrd Rule To Send Senate Health Care Bill Back To House

Senate Republicans succeeded early Thursday morning in finding two flaws in the House-passed health care reconciliation package...the upshot is that Republicans will succeed in at least slightly altering the legislation, which means that the House is once again required to vote on it.

The ruling might give Democrats another option -- the public one.

Democratic leadership no longer has to worry that additional amendments would send it back to the House, since it must return to the lower chamber regardless. The Senate is now free to put to the test that much-debated question of whether 50 votes exist for a public option. Democrats could also elect to expand Medicare or Medicaid, now that they only need 50 votes in the Senate and the approval of the House.

The question then becomes whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could pass the reconciliation changes with a public option. She has long maintained that the House has the votes to do so. Indeed, it did so in late 2009...

The Huffington Post interviewed House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Wednesday evening and asked if he thought he could have gotten the public option back through a second time, when the House voted on Sunday, even without those members who had left. "Yes, sir," he said emphatically. Clyburn added that the problem for the public option has never been in the House. The problem has been in the Senate. And now the upper chamber has a chance to vote on it. (emphasis added)

So the bill is going back to the House anyway, the Senate still has time to amend the bill with a public option, and the top House Democratic leaders are on the record saying they could pass the public option. Additionally, the New York Times notes that "the parliamentary process playing out on the Senate floor gives (Democrats) a rare chance to enact (the public option) with a simple majority, a chance unlikely to come around again soon." (this latter point is a key one for the "let's wait for a standalone bill later" crowd - I'll repeat what the Times reports: the specific chance we have right now is "a chance unlikely to come around again soon.")

So I ask what we asked yesterday at our rally at Sen. Bennet's office: Will our senator now fulfill his promise to push a public option using reconciliation?

Or are we going to get yet another ridiculous excuse?

David Sirota :: Senate Bill Going Back to the House - Can We Now Get a Public Option Vote?

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Ridiculous excuse. (4.00 / 5)
Any other questions?

Actually, (0.00 / 0)
this is the non-ridiculous, but still quite depressing, answer.  

[ Parent ]
We'll get another excuse. (4.00 / 5)
IMHO, the public option cannot happen.  It was part of the bargain the White House struck with the moneyed stakeholders way back in the beginning.  They won't break the deal now.

But, knowing that doesn't stop me from imagining that this opportunity flat frightens the House half to death.  I expect they're talking about it, and gaming the politics of it, and fearing what the Republicans (and their industry donors) will do if they seize the opportunity the GOP has dished up on a silver platter.  We know, roles reversed, the GOP wouldn't hesitate to grab the advantage for something that would have far less public support.  The Democrats seal their image as weak by sidestepping opportunities like this one; fearing that they'll be accused of being "unfair."  

In the end, it won't matter because the House won't cross the deal they made with the big chip holders.  I'd love to be wrong.  I'd have to sit back and totally reassess my opinion of the Democrats, and eat a plate or two of crow - which I'd happily do - but I expect the Democrats to come up with some reason why they can't no matter how flimsy.  Or, to refuse to give a reason at all - just so we know who is in charge.  The old, Because I say so would fit here.  

Yeah but that part is over (0.00 / 0)
Bill is now law so pardon my French but fuck the "moneyed stakeholders" - at this point I don't care what they have to say we got a bill signed into law.

If we can throw the for-profit health industry and pharma under the bus now for good fixes in reconciliation I am all for it at this point.

[ Parent ]
What's really stupid is (0.00 / 0)
that they might actually have a good excuse- there are pretty decent grounds for believing that the parliamentarian would rule that a PO can't be added under the reconciliation rules. So ironically, if they weren't so goddamn stupid they could probably get credit for trying and yet not actually have to pass it after all! Can't anybody here play this game?

[ Parent ]
No, because everyone would know the reliance of someone (0.00 / 0)
that they can fire or overrule is fake. Better to try to cut it off now.

[ Parent ]
Why would he rule that? (4.00 / 3)
CBO already said that the public option will reduce the deficit.  There's no reason to think it won't pass Byrd Rule muster.

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[ Parent ]
Yes that is the reason this will never happen (4.00 / 1)
It was part of the bargain the White House struck with the moneyed stakeholders way back in the beginning.  They won't break the deal now.

The sad thing is that all those "Congressional public option champions" knew it was never going to happen but were very willing to use it as a ploy to raise cash and support from  people who seriously thought they had a voice in the decision.

[ Parent ]
i would go with ridiculous excuse as well :) (4.00 / 1)
however, if there are specific things that we can do to help, please let us know.  i would be more than happy.  I think it would also be useful to get perspective from feminist / reproductive rights organisations to ensure that any steps taken are coordinated with them and don't worsen the already bad women's rights pieces of this legislation.

David - it's I'm listening to your right now online (4.00 / 2)
on your radio show (KKZN). The news that the Senate now has a clear, excuse-free opportunity to put in the PO is very exciting. That it still might not happen is both maddening and depressing. Anyway, thanks for all you've been doing, and for not caving into the cynical idea that's it's simply asking too much to hold our elected officials to their promises.

Exposing theatrics will be worth it (4.00 / 1)
Even if all we get is a ridiculous excuse, the excuses have been getting more and more transparently self-serving.  Dems have backed themselves into a corner.  Senator Bennet just got stuck holding the hot potato.  Friends I have who have defended Obama and his bill are starting to wonder what the deal is.  

Ditto- excuse (4.00 / 1)
This was never about process. This was about the president and democratic leadership not wanting this

AND the enablers in both Congress and amongst the base who went along with the obvious lies.

As a result of this situation, I am no longer donating to a single person that blogs like this and others claim I should donate to. Right now, many are captured by the Democratic party as a whole with some rare exceptions. Even those that are not, are often captured by hero worship over substantive benchmarks such as pressuring Congress to do what we want.

I am sure my minute money will not be missed. But, the reality is that the Democratic Party is a right of center party. The sham throughout the year was that they were really considering a left of center approach like the public option.

Maybe, maybe not (4.00 / 1)
But, the reality is that the Democratic Party is a right of center party.

I'd argue the Democratic leadership pushes Republican policies more often than not while the majority of the Democratic party (e.g. unions, minorities, progressives) remain true to the core values of the party. Especially the idea that in many cases government does a better job than the free market and, therefore, the government should take over parts of the economy. With health care, for example, the government must step in either directly through public health care or indirectly through a combination of public health care and stiff regulations. Republicans don't believe that. Neither does most of the Democratic leadership, as we have discovered.

There's an historical reason the Democratic leadership is Republican at the policy-level, but those reasons are fast becoming moot. For one, the Reagan era is quickly deflating in a mass of economic crashes, Tea Partying, and other crap. Democrats used to believe they had to be Republican in all but name to get elected.

We should push the House to add Grayson's Medicare buy-in legislation with no subsidies. Then see what happens. Worst case, we discover that indeed the Democratic leadership is scamming us and, in time, needs to be replaced with true social Democrats.

[ Parent ]
Sorry, I needed to be more precise (4.00 / 4)
I meant the Democrats, for the most part, in DC are center-right and, again for the most part, many of the rest are enablers of the center right approach. This is true without regard to the base or the general public. We simply don't matter to them. What matters is this DC narrative. I keep referring to what we see as the base (our expectations of voting for one thing, and getting another) as What's the Matter With Kansas, the Progressive Edition. We are fooled by party, ideological branding, identity politics, tactical strategies that they push on us, process and personality into believing they are something other than what they are doing now. But, the reality is that they are mostly politicians who came into power after Reagan. They are the Democratic response to Reagan. Even many of the so-called progressives are a response to Reagan. While the rest of the country has moved on. While the base may have moved on. DC lags this trend by probably a decade or more. Or, to put it as I believe Jon Stewart recently put it- the problem with Congress is that it is full of old people.  

[ Parent ]
old gray men from vast empty states (4.00 / 1)
to paraphrase Kevin Baker

[ Parent ]
lol (0.00 / 0)
Anyone else notice that David is incapable of taking a break from OpenLeft to work on his other stuff :P

Not that I mind I love having David here but it just shows how much this stuff sucks one in :)

The capitulation parade will continue unabated (4.00 / 1)
without a doubt.

"Yes we can" is sounding rather hollow at this point.

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

That would be a dumb idea... (0.00 / 0)
That is, if you support the bill otherwise. Better to have a separate stand-alone bill that does not jeopardize the first bill.  

But then again, I don't like the first bill. Go for it!

Jack Lohman ...  

Jack Lohman

with no leverage that requires 60 votes again (0.00 / 0)
yes far better to have something you  know can not pass.

[ Parent ]
No Jeopardy (4.00 / 1)
The House already passed the public option and sent it to the Senate. It's the 60-vote Senate that stripped it out. The 50-vote Senate could easily pass it.

There are no more excuses. David is 100% correct.

[ Parent ]
Hmm, the question is (0.00 / 0)
whether you're willing to risk losing the reconciliation bill entirely.  If you are then this is a no-brainer, have a vote on the public option.

I would argue that the risk of the public option proposal creating an environment where the House not only cannot pass it but cannot even pass the other fixes any more is not inconsequential.

Plus, I also feel certain that the public option bill would fail in both chambers, and I don't think that "getting people on record" is worth much in this specific instance.  The House members already had a vote on it, while in the Senate, the swing votes are people like Nelson of FL and Warner of VA.  If those guys opposed it, I just don't see it hurting them much.

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

What in the reconciliation bill is so important (0.00 / 0)
that you can't risk it for a public option?

Also, unless the public option ends up being the only thing in a reconciliation bill (highly unlikely) there will always be other stuff in that bill.  So that will become the omnipresent excuse used to not put the PO in.  "It will jeopardize the other stuff!" they say, even if the "other stuff" is some insignificant little shit like a tax increase on a small polluter in the middle of nowhere.

[ Parent ]
according to your own Mike Lux (0.00 / 0)
The House no longer has the votes to pass the public option:

anonymous speculation (0.00 / 0)
I'd say saying 'I'd vote no on a po' and casting a no vote is a lot different. I think it'd pass but I certainly could be wrong. just vote on an amendment.

what's the downside if they support the po?

[ Parent ]
Since our Senate & House Dems used the "bait" of a strong Public Option to get (4.00 / 2)
everyone's support for the $ 1,000,000,000,000 Payoff to the Insurance Companies and oh yeah, a Healthcare Bill,

WE should call their bluff and tell them
we'll only vote for them in November

IF they PASS "Medicare For ALL" By November.


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