Public Option Picks Up 35th Supporter
Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) became the 35th senator to commit to voting for a public health insurance option if it comes to a vote on the floor under the rules of reconciliation. That leaves advocates of the option 15 votes short with no official whip action from either the White House or Senate leadership.
Senate leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) have expressed support for the movement, but the White House has concluded, according to press secretary Robert Gibbs, that the public option doesn't have "political support."
The steady climb in named supporters undermines the White House's conclusion.
While it refuses to push for the public option, the White House is attempting to muscle through several measures that have almost no political support within the Democratic caucus and, in fact, are vociferously opposed.
The excise tax on benefits, which hits unions hard, has extremely little support yet the White House has managed to include it. The administration is now pushing to include health savings accounts, a GOP priority that amounts to the creation of significant tax shelters for the wealthy. Democrats have fought hard in the past to oppose them and weaken them but the White House now intends to give them to the GOP in exchange for nothing.
"I find that ironic -- something that we had fought to keep out, and indeed were successful, gets back in as part of reconciliation. And a public option that enjoys great support in the House and up to 30 senators gets left out. That's something I just don't understand," Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Salon Wednesday.
Obama's campaign arm, meanwhile, is arguing that "at this point, the public option is detrimental to our efforts," according to Chris Bowers.
The administration's efforts notwithstanding, Cantwell said that if the parliamentarian determines that the public option can be voted on under the rules of reconciliation, which require only 50 votes, she's on board.
"If the parliamentarian says you can and it can all work, yes," she told HuffPost when asked if she'd vote for it. "If it works, fine."
Progressive groups pushing for the public option are keeping a running tally here.
"This is great news," said Adam Green, a lead organizer with Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has been pressuring senators to commit. "I think a lot of Americans are wondering: Why are senators like Ted Kaufman and Maria Cantwell showing more leadership and being more in touch with where the American people are than the White House? As Anthony Weiner asked yesterday, 'What votes did President Obama win by retreating on the public option?'"