Four Democratic senators, including two facing potentially challenging election campaigns this year, are asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to use reconciliation, a procedural maneuver requiring only 51 votes, to push for a public health insurance option.
Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) signed a letter to Reid saying they support this plan for four reasons: the cost savings the public option is estimated to achieve, continued public support for the public option, the need for increased competition in the insurance market and the Senate's history of using the reconciliation process for health care reform.
"Put simply, including a strong public option is one of the best, most fiscally responsible ways to reform our health insurance system," the letter says. "Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the public's perception of it."
I think that's exactly right. While polls show many Americans against the bills currently in Congress, and apparently in favor of starting over (which is really a non-starter, as doing so would be political suicide for Democrats), the opposition to reform seems to have more to do with the ugliness of legislative sausage-making and the success of Republican propaganda (and its parallel media narrative) than with the specifics of those bills, which remain widely popular (as does reform generally).
Passing a bill, whether the compromise Senate bill (with no public option) or a broader, more significant bill with a "strong public option" would be a huge success for Democrats, one that would start to resonate with the American people once they understood more clearly what exactly has been achieved and that health-care reform isn't part of some left-wing socialist-fascist plot to take over the country but rather something all Americans would benefit from over time. (Of course, this would require a concerted communications effort on the part of the White House and Congressional Dems.)
In short, "the public's perception" of the reform effort would improve dramatically with passage, with success. For once, Democrats should do what is totally in their self-interest. Because in this case, what is totally in their self-interest is also totally in the best interests of the American people. And that isn't often the case in politics.
(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)