Tuesday, September 29, 2009

With Friends Like These Who Needs Republicans?

Sen. Jay Rockefeller's (D-WV) Public Option Amendment Fails in the Senate Finance Committee 8-15

I woke up this morning hoping that maybe, just maybe, the Conservadems in the Senate Finance Committee would get a clue. At this point though, they have received far too much money from the insurance industry for that to be possible. I don't know if I'm the only one, but I frequently forget that people like Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) are DEMOCRATS! How in the world did it get to the point where the guy from Montana, with a population of 8, gets all the power?
I don't know whether it's still possible for President Obama to sign a healthcare reform bill that includes a public option by the end of the year. There is still a chance that with some fancy budget reconciliation procedures, we might not even end up needing the Kent Conrad's of the world to help us get a public option in a final bill. Basically how that can work is the Senate will pass some version of the horrible crap also known as the Baucus bill without a public option and the House will pass a bill with a strong public option.

One thing that Obama has pointed out repeatedly is that during conference committee a number of folks on the Democratic side are actually
real liberals. Instead of Ben Nelson (D-NE), (who today actually had the nerve to say that he didn't think a healthcare reform bill that passed with less than 65 votes could be considered credible as if to choose a number that was deliberately unattainable. Wonder how much Humana gave him to say that?

But I digress...) deciding what goes in the final bill, are people like Jay Rockefeller (pictured above), Chris Dodd, and Charles Rangel. This is good news if you are a supporter of the public option which I'm assuming you are since it polls above 65%. It is very possible that after all this mess with triggers and co-ops, a public option could get put back in the bill before it goes to the Senate floor and at that point according to the rules the bill cannot be changed, they just have to give it an up or down vote. (I credit Ezra Klein's
blog for the Washington Post with helping me get a handle on these procedural nuances.) At that point Harry Reid (D-NV) can decide if he wants to use budget reconciliation. If he decides not to, the Conservadems will actually have to summon the courage (ha!) to filibuster the bill WITH the Republicans. I'm at least hoping that they are too wimpy to do that since they've proven to be spineless with everything else healthcare reform related up to this point.

So am I stupid to still have any optimism left about healthcare reform and the public option?

Update: Sen. Chuck Schumer's Amendment for a less robust public option, a follow up to the Rockefeller Amendment, has also failed in the Senate Finance Committee with a vote of 10-13. The news there though is that Ben Nelson got a clue and flipped to support it. Also switching to support it was Senator Tom Carper (D-DE). Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, and Blanche Lincoln who continue to behave like Republicans voted against.

Update II: Turns out my optimism re: the public option isn't misplaced.

Note: In the prior version of this post I referred to Senator Ben Nelson of Florida instead of from Nebraska. Bill Nelson who is also on the Finance Committee is a Democrat from Florida. Both voted in favor of the Schumer Public Option Amendment which failed 10-13 (only 2 votes shy of passage).

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