New data confirms that the public option is popular in Blue Dog states and districts. In fact a new poll warns that the Democrats will lose a bunch of swing districts if the final bill does NOT have a public option. Voters oppose a mandate to buy insurance alone, but support (60-37) the mandate with the choice of a public option. The latest CBS/Times poll shows that even a plurality of Republicans supports the public option. The CBO says a strong public option would save $85 billion more than a weak one; it was the concession to the Blue Dogs on Medicare, in one of the House committees, that wiped away that $85 billion in savings. Ezra Klein notes, "In other words, the conservatives want to spend $85 billion more than the liberals do." Passing the public option would not only cut government expenditures – everybody, in fact, would save on insurance, because the increased competition would bring all prices down.
A key sticking point, as always, is in the Senate Finance Committee, which, regrettably has jurisdiction over big social programs, following a tradition going back to FDR’s time. The committee was supposed to vote on the public option today, but they all fled at lunch for the three-day Yom Kippur weekend. And some of the other Democratic Senators got a little wobbly: Reid expressed interest in Snowe’s trigger option, and Carper said we should ignore the 20 percent of the health reform plan which the GOP doesn’t like (which gives the GOP total veto power). Debbie Stabenow, however, got on the scoreboard for the Democrats: John Kyl is pushing to limit maternity care, which is an appalling idea since few states require maternity coverage and fewer individual insurance markets offer it (an insurance stooge actually argued that “having a child is a matter of choice); when Kyl started bellowing that he doesn’t need maternity coverage, Stabenow poked him right in the eye -- "I think your mom probably did."
Obama allowed the Baucus circus to drag on this long in order to set up reconciliation: now the public knows the GOP wasn’t negotiating in good faith. One scenario would point toward the House passing the public option but not the Senate. The two houses would then get together on a compromise report which would add it back in, and send it back to the Senate. Then the big issue would be nailing down cloture. It really should be enough for the Blue Dogs to vote against the public option in committee, and then vote for a non-public-option bill, then vote for cloture, and then vote against the public-option itself – voting against the public option three out of four times should be all the political cover they need, particularly since, as we noted at the top of this piece, the Blue Dogs’ constituents want the public option. That’s if the Blue Dogs are really working for their constituents, rather than their insurance industry paymasters.
Cloture just got a little easier -- the GOP challenge to the seating of Kennedy’s replacement was swiftly rejected by a state judge.