Will Democrats Filibuster the Public Plan, Or Just Oppose It?
In my interview with Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), he said the problem with the public plan could be summed up in one word: "votes." All Republicans, and "at least" three Democrats opposed the policy. In a 60-vote Senate, that makes the public plan unworkable. A compromise is needed.
Conrad, of course, has much more information on the current state of the votes than I do. But it's worth wondering whether we're in a 60-vote Senate for the public plan, or just for health-care reform. In particular, remember that the actual number of votes need to pass a bill is 50, not 60. The 60-vote threshold comes into play only when you're trying to break a filibuster. After you break the filibuster, you need only a simple majority.
Imagine a Senate of 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans. Imagine further that all Republicans, and five Democrats, are opposed to the public plan. But, importantly, none of the Democrats are willing to filibuster the full health-care reform bill because of their opposition to the public plan. Instead, they mean to oppose it through more traditional means: They will sponsor an amendment to strip it out of the final bill, and if that fails, they're willing to vote against the final bill.
In this world, 60 Democrats vote to successfully crack the filibuster. The amendment to strip the public plan from the legislation is defeated, 55 votes to 45 votes. And health-care reform -- with the public plan -- passes by the same margin.
The question, in other words, is not how many Democrats oppose the public plan. It's how many will filibuster the full health reform bill. And given that even Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is saying he won't filibuster to stop the Republican plan, it'll be interesting to see whether we're really in a 60-vote environment for the public plan, or just for health reform.
(Photo credit: Richard A. Lipski - The Washington Post)
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