For Reid’s next trick…
Reid knows his future depends on this health bill; if he didn’t have the votes he would have gone for the trigger as Rahm pressed him to. Barring a major miscarriage, he has the votes. The Blue Dogs have been saying they can support the bill if it’s a level playing field – the Schumer version rather than the robust version – and are unlikely to block cloture. Significantly, Reid said he hasn’t asked the White House to urge Senators to get on board, because “it hasn’t been necessary”, which betokens confidence (or foolhardiness). He was also confident enough to ignore the worries of Obama and the pressure from Rahm, who knows how to bring pressure.
Tomorrow the Senate Democrats meet for lunch and Reid will work the Blue Dogs over again.
Reid will remind the Blue Dogs that this is a moderate bill, the compromise which they reached after the Democrats gave in on the single-payer, and on the robust public option, and on the unadulterated Schumer option. The public option will have to pay back its loans and play by the same rules as the private insurers; it not only allows people to opt out, but it allows states to PREVENT individuals from opting in, so nobody is being forced into anything – states can deprive people of the right to choose, which should warm any conservative’s heart.
Reid will remind the caucus that Lieberman, Lincoln, Carper and Landrieu supported cloture when Bush rammed Samuel Alito own our throats, and they should extend the same courtesy to a president from their own party.
He will remind them that a vote to block cloture is a vote to destroy both Reid and Obama, by rejecting a program that voters want; it’s a vote to create Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell, because in 2010 America will punish us for failing to pass a good bill, OR for succeeding with a bad bill that people hate.
He will remind them that if this bill is blocked, the Republicans will know they can block anything, at any time, just as they are blocking our nominees for the courts and for Surgeon General (right in the middle of a health crisis).
He will remind them that if they go with him on just one vote – cloture – they can go against him on the opt-in amendment, the trigger amendment, the strip-out-the-opt-out amendment, and the bill itself, four separate chances to prove their loyalty to their paymasters in the insurance industry (it isn’t loyalty to their constituents because the voters want the public option).
He will remind them that the liberals, for once, didn’t cave to the conservatives, and they will stand firm to the end because they’re tired of getting screwed over.
He will remind them that the options aren’t opt-out and trigger: they are opt-out now, or opt-out in conference, or opt-out in reconciliation.
He may also remind them that they need to sweeten the bill with some popular stuff for 2010, like drug discounts for seniors, tax credits for small businesses, money for folks with preexisting conditions.
And he will remind them that they claim to be Democrats, and it’s time to stop fucking with their president just to prove they can do it. Because Obama can fuck with them, and so can Rahm.
Watch Nelson, Lincoln and Bayh after the big lunch with Reid. Silence is golden. If they come out and say “hell no” now, then Reid miscalculated. If they play their cards close to their vest, then we have weeks to work them over. Baucus is now saying he was a public option fan from the beginning – he at least, believes the fix is in. Nelson says he wants the opt-in, not the opt-out, and hasn’t committed to cloture; nor have Lincoln or Bayh, so those three will get a lot of attention. Snowe criticized the bill but did not say she’d block cloture. Meanwhile liberal Senators are working it from the other side, showing that a bill WITHOUT the public option might not even get 50 votes (although threatening a filibuster could backfire by causing the Blue Dogs to use the same threat).
Then Reid will spend weeks working on the holdouts, if need be, aided by Obama.
The opt-out notion, apparently Schumer’s brain-child, was a huge creative leap, like the one LBJ exploited in the late 1950s to get our first civil rights bill passed (actually that bill required 3-4 political miracles from Johnson, not just one). Reid is actually sending two or three versions of the reform package to the CBO for scoring, which hopefully will come under Obama’s $900 billion threshold; apparently the alternatives to be scored do include some language regarding coops (I’m unclear what that is) but they do NOT include Snowe’s trigger plan, which is insulting to Snowe but necessary to prevent the Blue Dogs from selling out to her again. There are also elements of the old Baucus bill which the liberals may want removed.
Snowe’s trigger was doomed even before Reid stomped it flat today – Reid must have known that so many liberals would fight it that it might not even have gotten 50 votes, let alone 60. Note that neither Snowe nor the White House made a real effort to sell the trigger idea, whereas Schumer has been marketing the opt-out to death for weeks. Of course Snowe is still feebly touting the trigger now, claiming on very thin evidence that it would lead to a broad bipartisan compromise (no, seriously!).
And stop whining about Obama, folks. His strategy all along was to go with the trigger in the first bill, and keep out of the picture until everything is settled at the last minute in conference – it’s safer that way, it preserves momentum, and they only have to rely on balky Blue Dogs once instead of twice (although it was highly unlikely a Dog would vote yes the first time and then screw Obama on the conference report). Obama’s only sin here was being slow to shift strategy now that the public option is back from the dead, and some pardonable reservations about Reid’s ability to pull this off. Now that Reid has jumped in, the White House is backing him up: Obama always wanted the public option in the first place, and soon he will bring his considerable firepower to the cause.
The GOP thought they killed this dead, and now they are terrified. They are screeching that Reid, Mister Caspar Milquetoast himself, who looks like a retired mailman, is a PARTISAN BULLY!! Snowe, when she isn’t trying to resurrect the trigger plan, is bragging that she is trying to slow the process down, which is a dead giveaway that all those weeks of Baucus sucking up to her were wasted.
So watch to see what leaks out of Reid’s big lunch meeting tomorrow.