The public option: it (sort of) lives (maybe)! Or so says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who boldly announced in yesterday's anxiously-anticipated press conference that the bill would contain something public option-esque. Since then, it has quickly become the fast-moving subject du jour.
Naturally, it's worth pointing out that Reid didn't manage to get behind the so-called "robust," chipotle-flavored public option that progressives favor. Nor is it the Chuck Schumer, "cool-ranch" version of the public option.
Instead, we get the "opt-out" public option, in which various states could choose to bail on the program after a year, if their public servants so desired. Political mavens are fascinated by the "opt-out" possibilities, because it flips the "Waterloo" script and dares Republicans at the state level to risk their political careers to deny their constituents this insurance option, potentially giving Democrats a brickbat with which to swat their opponents. Of course, also in the path of that brickbat: actual health care consumers! But hey! One poor working-class family's crisis is another man's winning election issue! Right?
Anyway, the matter at hand now is whether a reform bill that contains as limited a measure as the opt-out plan will survive the Senate. (The White House, as you know, would have settled for a lot less!) So, with that in mind, let's take a look at those senators who can, and probably will, completely cock up health care reform.
JOE LIEBERMAN, I-Conn.,
Well, let's start with the guy who has basically announced that he is going to wreck the bill. As reported by HuffPost's Ryan Grim, Lieberman says "that if a public health insurance option was in the final health care bill, he would join a GOP filibuster to prevent it from getting an up or down vote." This is not surprising: Lieberman lives to betray his colleagues. In the past, Lieberman has said that he'd support the even-more-useless "public option trigger," but who knows? Lieberman is basically the least trustworthy creature currently plying his trade in legislative politics. Anyone remember when this guy was going to be the vice president on the Democratic ticket? Wow. All that matters now is that he continues to garner the favor of the health insurance companies, headquartered in his state.
OLYMPIA SNOWE, R-Maine
There aren't too many Republicans relevant to this discussion, but Olympia Snowe -- best known for singing a magical siren song that has caused so many pieces of legislation to dash themselves to bits on the rocky shoals of bipartisanship -- is one of them. Now that Lieberman is signaling his desire to filibuster, the courting of Snowe is probably back on the table for Democrats who want to get the bill to an up-or-down vote. Snowe has said that she doesn't support the "opt-out public option," is more partial to the trigger, and, true to form, has maddeningly been working her typical "I'll probably filibuster it but who knows? Maybe I won't?" dance.
BEN NELSON, D-Neb.
The consensus on Ben Nelson is that he's not astute enough to outsmart a half-empty bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's, but somewhere along the way, some aide has convinced him that he can wield the most legislative power by staking out the most centrist position possible on every issue. In doing so, he doesn't do anything particularly smart -- he's basically one of those types of centrists who waters down the effectiveness of policy until it's just useless enough to get Republican votes. At times he seemed to support the opt-out, while at other times he seemed to favor the trigger, probably because he's too stupid to know the difference.
MARY LANDRIEU, D-Louis.
Landrieu is another one of these senators best known for behaving as if her intellect has been incapacitated by a mighty blow to the head. Two weeks ago, she was moronically blathering on and on about how "when people hear public option they hear free health care." Days later, she was telling the Associated Press that she wasn't "for a government-run, national, taxpayer-subsidized plan, and never will be," when in fact she is for all sorts of "government-run, national, taxpayer-subsidized plans." It's hard to say whether Landrieu is dumb or just inclined to mislead her constituents in return for lobbyist dollars. I'm guessing it's a little from column A, a little from column B.
KENT CONRAD, D-N.D.
Back in mid-September, Kent Conrad rather forthrightly predicted that the public option "was not going to pass" and that the only thing that had a chance in the Senate was the junk that made it out of the Senate Finance Committee. Conrad is the leading proponent of the useless, stupid health-care co-ops that won't work.
BLANCHE LINCOLN, D-Ark.
Blanche Lincoln has been signaling her non-commitment to any health care reform that even smells of "public option," and as recently as yesterday, told Greg Sargent that she "has not committed her vote" to anyone or anything, including bypassing a filibuster in the Senate. FUN FACT: As the chair of the Agriculture Committee, Lincoln has been given scads of money from polluters and from Wall Street, meaning she'll have a hand at screwing up derivatives reform and environmental policy as well.
HARRY REID, D-Nev.
Yeah, yeah, I know. He's the guy who's standing behind the public option, or what's left of it. But this is also the guy who said Roland Burris would not be sworn into office, so, if it's all the same to you, I'll report on Reid's balls when I've confirmed that both have dropped from his abdomen.
Right now, I still don't entirely trust Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Sure, he's now basically telling anyone who will listen to him that he supports the public option, but he's fickle. Plus, his office is basically one big whorehouse funded by the health care industry. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) seems to be on board, but I'll remind you that Bayh is the founder of the Hyper-Timid Incrementalist Bullshit Working Group. Is the "opt-out public option" hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit enough? (Actually, probably yes. But still.) Also, let's recall that Roland Burris (D-Ill.) said that he'd vote against any bill that did not include the robust public option... we'll see if he holds to that.
But yeah, if it can get past all of these idiots, this watered-down version of health care reform is going to be just fine.