Senate Blue Dogs are beginning to realize that if they pass an individual mandate without the public option, their constituents could toss them out of office. Landrieu said she’s not inclined to join a filibuster, which is huge since she’s arguably the Democrat most resistant to the public option. Ben Nelson isn’t ready to commit to cloture yet, but he is now saying that the public option is popular but the opt-in and opt-out options are even more popular. Baucus is saying that he likes the public option personally and wants to keep the insurers honest, and he seems to be talking about which public option we should have, rather than whether to have it at all. Some think that even Snowe could vote for cloture. Two Senators, Udall and Bennet, are keeping up the pressure on the Blue Dogs by openly calling on the other Senators to commit to cloture.
The CBO gave reformers a big boost by scoring the liberal, robust public-option plan and giving it a very low price tag, below $900 billion. Pelosi, armed with that, will ask her caucus to take that liberal public option to the House floor, which will keep up the pressure on the Senate and give reformers more negotiating room to their right. Even better, Reid is saying he wants to look at the CBO numbers before deciding on the public option – which suggests that the good CBO score will give the public option momentum in both Houses.
Reid, Dodd and Baucus will wait a couple of days before tackling the public option issue, addressing the less volatile issues in the meantime. Reid’s weird “we’re leaning toward talking about the public option” suggests that some form of the public option will be in the merged bill, which is very important because it is much easier to pass it as part of the original bill, rather than trying to tack it on as an amendment which is much easier to block with a filibuster. Reid did sound a bit pusillanimous in the way he addressed this issue, and his wobbly leadership has become so obvious that even liberals are getting in his face: Ron Wyden just pushed back at a message from the Senate leadership claiming that under the current plan anyone can switch to the public coverage. But Reid knows that if he comes out looking wobbly, he loses his job, so he’s got to man up soon.
Along the same lines, Senate aides have been begging for weeks, for Obama to jump into the fight publicly: they say a lot of the Blue Dogs could be brought into line that way (although he may not have all that much leverage over them), and it could pump up Obama’s poll numbers (and party fundraising) as well – a lot of Democrats and independents are withdrawing from Obama because he’s not pushing enough.
The GOP saw the poll data this week, and they must have been stunned to learn that the public option is three times as popular as the Republican party.
Let me hit that point again: the public option is three times as popular as the Republican party.
Nevertheless they have their attack/evade/delay strategy ready again, although New Gingrich is promising that if health reform passes, the GOP will work to repeal it later, which suggests the GOP expects to lose this battle. Insurance lobbyists have new massive ad campaign aimed at seniors, claiming that Obama will allow Obama not only to deny Medicare coverage, but also to put your “intimate” details out where the public can see them.
But here’s the real measure of Republican desperation on health reform: Tom Coburn is one of the biggest gay-bashers in Washington, screeching that gays have infiltrated the centers of power, that their agenda is the greatest threat to our freedoms, that their agenda is abortion and promiscuity; he bellows about rampant lesbianism and gay porn, and advocated reporting all positive HIV tests to the public authorities. Now Coburn is crawling back to the gay community, begging for their help on health care, claiming that big gummint will kill people by rationing AIDS medicine. That’s like Hermann Goering asking for the Jews to speak in his favour at Nuremburg.