Here are about a dozen reasons why passage of the public option became more likely today.
The Massachusetts Senate passed the bill allowing the governor to replace Kennedy in the Senate. So we’re back to 60-40. All Reid needs to do now is lay down the law to the Blue Dogs: a “yes” vote on cloture is not voting to support the bill, you’re voting to support your party and stop the filibuster. And if you screw with me on this, the signature issue of your party leader in the White House, your days as a player in the Senate are over. Massachusetts Republicans are threatening legal challenges, to delay the process, but if Reid decides to seat the Senator, we could swap a court fight for a Senate fight. At best I think all they can do is slow things down a bit – and reinforce the overpowering impression among Americans that the Republicans are into obstruction for its own sake, regardless of the damage they’re doing.
More are speaking out for the public option: Stabenow endorsed it, Schumer called for it, Bingaman and Menendez want it, Cantwell said she won’t vote for a bill that doesn’t have it, even Bill O’Reilly endorsed the public option. And Eric Cantor told a sick townhall attendee to go get aid from the government, which was a rather astonishing left-handed endorsement of government-provided health care.
The main alternative to the public option, the Baucus bill, is being panned by labor, by House Democrats, Senators Burris, Feingold and Brown, and Howard Dean.
Today in committee, the Republicans were screeching all over again – “government takeover of healthcare, stunning assault on liberty, it’s all going too fast, we demand a promise in advance from the House and the President that they will back the bill with no alterations” etc, and they are still putting the screws to Snowe to reject any reform plan (pressure which may ease off once Kennedy’s replacement arrives). Nevertheless the Republicans are rather clumsily admitting that it’s the Democrats who have been trying to seek bipartisanship on this issue: Grassley finally admitted that the Finance bill did in fact have Republican input (a ton of it, in fact), and Cantor admitted that the Republicans agreed with 80 percent of the bill.
Insurance lobbyist Karen Ignani shows us all vividly why we need the public option. She actually sent a letter to Baucus, saying the insurers want to design “packages” that allow them to cherry-pick healthy applicants and deter those in poor health from applying. "For example, insurers could offer a benefits design that omits or severely limits services needed by people with serious medical conditions." Properly-defined standard benefits would stop them from doing that. Ignani’s idiotic move demonstrates to all that even government regulation won’t stop these crooks – we need the public option. (The insurers were also caught trying to use Medicare mailers to scare seniors into opposing government-run care – an astounding combination of hypocrisy, chutzpah and dishonesty)
The public option won’t get out of the Finance Committee without Baucus and Conrad, but that is not an insurmountable obstacle – Reid will step in and merge the Finance bill with the HELP bill, which does have the public option. Wyden is complaining that the Baucus bill doesn’t have enough reform or enough bipartisanship – the obvious problem being that getting more reform means less bipartisanship and vice versa. Wyden cosponsored a coop plan with Bob Bennett of Utah, but interestingly, he hasn’t fought to put it on the table with the 6-7 other plans being discussed. Which makes the coop less likely, and the public option more likely. Wyden was also calling for more competition and accountability for the private insurers – perfect.
The Republican Lie Machine is running out of gas. The American people are tuning them out. Or, in today’s example, laughing them off the stage. Some GOP yokel tried to persuade his constituents that Obamacare will cap doctors’ wages, and his own voters openly laughed at him. And this was in ruby-red KANSAS . Meanwhile voters slapped around GOP Representative Eric Cantor, demanding that he explain what the GOP health care plan is.
Mitch McConnell was screeching today that if the Democrats use the reconciliation process to pass health reform in the Senate, the American people will explode with rage and exact their revenge; his desperate, impotent bellowing neatly skips over the fact that not one American in a hundred even knows what reconciliation is (for once popular ignorance works in favour of the Democrats), and the few who do know, also know that the GOP used it to ram a bunch of stupid stuff down OUR throats. I raise the reconciliation issue to make a point: at many points in Obama’s career, he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat because he always knows the rules better than the other team. He got to the Illinois Senate by pointing out that his opponents were ineligible to run for the seat, because they had violated ballot qualification rules. He beat Hillary for the presidential nomination because he knew about the proportional distribution of delegates, about the hybrid primary/caucus system in Texas, about the rules for scooping up caucus delegates, about horse-trading with other candidates to win delegates in the all-important Iowa primary, and about working the superdelegates. And this spring, he managed to insert a thing called a reconciliation instruction into the budget package and hardly anybody noticed: that device gave him the option of passing health reform with only 50 Senate votes, provided he meets a list of rules – which Obama also knows full well. McConnell, a sharp parliamentarian himself, knows he’s been checkmated – and that’s why he’s whining today. If he had whined back in the spring, he might have had a chance to head Obama off at the pass on the reconciliation instruction. Obama never gets outsmarted on the rules, and he isn’t about to start when fighting potentially the greatest battle of his life. And he’s unlikely to set up the reconciliation thing in the spring, and then NOT use it to get the best bill he can, meaning the public option.
Robert Byrd’s fall wasn’t serious; he’s back home.
Key obstructionist Blue Dog Mike Ross has been caught selling a pharmacy business, for a ridiculously high price, to a drug firm that has a stake in the health care debate. He pocketed over $100,000 over market, I think. So one of the key obstructionists just pulled up lame.
The House Blue Dogs tried to pin Pelosi down to a deal Waxman made with the Dogs, to get Waxman’s bill out of committee. Pelosi said no dice: that deal was binding only on Waxman to get the bill out of committee, and I cannot be bound by anything that happened in committee because I have to also accommodate two other committees. Grassley tried the same stunt in the Senate, demanding that ALL Democrats, including Pelosi and the President, adhere to whatever deal was made in the Senate Finance Committee, which is simply not done. So Pelosi is still hanging tough for the House liberals.
A new NBC poll showed that the American people, who have said over and over that they want action on health care, will hold the Republicans responsible if health reform fails this year. Just in time for a midcycle election.
And on a side note…Scarborough just admitted the obvious – that Glenn Beck is bad for the GOP because he is the de facto leader of the party and he is clearly insane. Back in the spring I was tickled to death because the true GOP leader at that time, Limbaugh, was about as popular as hemorrhoids, but having Beck be the party poster boy is even better. A problem which the Republicans wouldn’t have if the had actual, ya know, leaders.