Thursday 15 October 2009

Is Reid going wobbly on using the cloture option?

Washington insiders expect a health bill by Thanksgiving or New Year’s, depending on Obama’s travel.

The polls continue to show support for health reform. Only 18 percent of Americans believe the line that America has the best health care in the world; even among Republicans the number is only 28 percent. Olympia Snowe’s home state wants the public option by a margin of 58-29. And support will increase even more since Obama is turning out his grassroots troops to mobilize for health reform.

But we’re still overcoming the media’s laziness in reporting the issue accurately: in addition to the media’s parrotting dishonest wingnut talking points about death panels and benefit cuts for seniors, there is a strong likelihood that one reason the White House wanted Rockefeller and the liberals to vote for the Baucus bill, was that the media was likely to portray a defeat of the Baucus bill as a defeat for Obama and reform, instead of a rejection of a crappy bill.

One thing that could help goose the public option forward, is the fact that a lot of people are leery of having an individual mandate WITHOUT also having the public option: that really puts us all at the mercy of the insurers who just boasted that they are going to jack up our rates. Now: according to Senate rules, if they hold a House-Senate conference to reconcile the two versions of the bill, and both versions have the individual mandate in it, then it will be extremely difficult to take it out – you’d need 60 votes, and you know the Republicans would all fight to keep it in. So then the negotiators in the conference would be put on the spot: since we can’t take out the individual mandate, don’t we need the public option even more?

Other options include allowing states to opt in or out of the public option, or allowing states to choose from a list of options including local coops. The liberals at least want something that isn’t too weak. Some have suggested a combination, such as an opt-in with a trigger. Obama and Reid apparently have been talking about the trigger option with Snowe, but hopefully they were just buttering her up. Baucus’ plan is coming under more fire – with costs for a family of four at around $700 a month, around 17 million could be priced out of the market. Things we want to look for include: strong subsidies, protection against high out-of-pocket costs, controlling providers (drugs, hospitals, manufacturers), making the system strong and national with power to control insurers, opening the plan to those already employed, taxing the Cadillac plans, strong mandates for both individuals and employers, capping rate hikes.

The problem here appears to be Reid.

Reid says he prefers the public option but he keeps going wobbly on us; first he said he needed 50 votes to act, then when we got 50 he needed 60, and now that he gets 60 he says he won’t enforce discipline and will just seek a reform bill that can get 60 votes on its own, rather than demanding that Democrats support cloture. He doesn’t even want to ASK the Democrats to stick to the team on cloture. Alan Grayson is among the Democrats screaming at him to man up (I think that Lieberman, at least, should be brought to heel). Even if Reid wins reelection next year, how about making Schumer majority leader?

Reports say that in the last few weeks Reid has, in fact, started intensive talks with liberals, trying to figure out how to pass the public option, but hasn’t closed in on a strategy yet. He seems to be focusing on doing it in conference, which is risky.

So he wants it, to he's too polite to ask.

Lyndon Johnson wept.

Lacking such adult supervision, Landrieu is spewing nonsense about people believing the public option is free health care – I’m more interested in her stance on cloture. Conrad is stressing his opposition to a public option linked to Medicare – he’s setting himself up to vote for some OTHER kind of public option, which is a pleasant surprise. Ben Nelson says he will be a team player as long as his party doesn’t go too far to the left…which is where, exactly? Lieberman is a probable “no” on the public option, but again, what about cloture? He must know that even a very lenient Reid would have Lieberman at the top of the “punish me” list.

(On a happier note, Blue Dog Mark Pryor says he’s on board for cloture, and Specter urged the other Democrats to do likewise, although they were reluctant)

It was reported that Snowe will be invited to some of the sessions in which the bills will be merged; then Reid’s office firmly shot down the idea. Snowe is still selling the trigger idea; I don’t think she would be pushing this unless she was afraid that a real public option could pass. She dislikes the opt-out option. The GOP is not punishing her officially, although wingnut sites like Redstate are slamming her. But let’s all remember: if you pass a bill with a public option you might lose Snowe, but without the public option you lose the House of Representatives.

The rest of the GOP is doing the same old same old – lie, delay, lie, delay. McConnell says he wants a couple of MONTHS for debate, and the rest of Team Red is screeching lies about more gummint and more taxes – which they wouldn’t be doing if they had a valid argument to use.

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