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Why is Harry Reid Covering Up a Secret Senate Filibuster?

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The Huffington Post reports that Harry Reid is working the phones because he's "just one or two Senate votes shy of having a filibuster-proof majority in favor of a public option for health insurance coverage with a provision allowing states to opt-out."

"One or two votes shy?" That means Reid is allowing members of the Democratic caucus to threaten a filibuster behind closed doors and dictate what will be in the bill he brings to the floor, but he won't tell the public. It's the "silent filibuster" we've been warning about. I guess you and I don't need to know who is conducting it, because we're not a member of the exclusive club who decides whether we get affordable health care or Wellpoint gets a giant taxpayer-funded bailout. We're just supposed to take Reid's word for it.

Here's the truth: there are 51 members of the Senate who are on record saying they'll vote for a public option. That's a majority. You don't need 60. The 60 votes are needed for a procedural vote -- "cloture" -- that would bring a bill to the floor and allow an up-or-down vote. If they can't get those 60 votes, it's called a "filibuster." It used to be a rare occurrence, and traditionally, it's the opposition party who filibusters to stop a vote from taking place.

The "deal" Reid is cutting to keep these unidentified Senators from joining in a GOP filibuster against their own caucus would weaken it significantly. The "opt out" would endanger health care affordability in states controlled by Republican governors or legislatures, and even Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds has said that he would opt-out if elected in Virginia. The CBO says that public option insurance premiums would be 11% cheaper than private insurance, a savings of $1400 a year for a family of four. Those mandated costs would get passed on directly to residents of those states in Reid compromise to earn the votes of Democrats he won't name.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on what the opt-out means for her state:

Then we're not providing the necessary competition and choice for Americans in those states....In my state we've got 10 Democrats and 15 Republicans and a split on our Senators. I wouldn't want to be duking it out with the rest of my delegation on who wins, on whether or not we do or don't participate in the public option. And I certainly wouldn't want Charlie Christ to be able to make the decision. And he is our governor.

If the public option -- something 84% of Nevada Democrats want -- doesn't make it to the floor, Reid owns it. Even caucus members who are not keen on a public option like Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Tom Harkin, Jeff Bingaman, Tom Carper and Mary Landrieu voted to give George Bush and up-or-down vote on his Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito -- then voted against his confirmation.

Is Reid so weak he can't enforce the same courtesy for a Democratic bill?

Either Harry Reid enforces caucus discipline on this one or it becomes the model for every single piece of legislation that comes before the Senate from hereon in. It guarantees that every bill is written by the caucus's most conservative members. It gives the power to the corporations to pick off those most easily compromised by lobbyist money, through which they can then write our laws. If the Democratic caucus has 60 votes and all 60 votes are needed for any measure to pass from hereon in, all it will take is one Senator to privately say they are willing to gum up the works and they've got all the power.

And you? You're not even allowed to know which Senator is doing it. Thanks to Harry Reid.

It's Reid's choice to include a public option or not in the final bill he brings to the floor. He doesn't need the vote of a single Senator. If he is cutting secret deals in smoke filled rooms to water down the public option and protect those caucus members who won't publicly say they'll join a Republican filibuster, he's not credible as anything other than Wellpoint's hatchet man until he's willing to names names.

Around the Web

Reid leaning toward public option - Carrie Budoff Brown - POLITICO.com

Think Progress » Reid won't commit to public plan: 'No decision's ...

Post Politics: Harry Reid, Public Option, More - washingtonpost.com