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A gang of one


Word on the street is that the White House has told congressional leaders that it supports a public-option trigger in the final bill. Other administration sources are denying the story. It's a good, old-fashioned who-the-hell-knows?

It's always hard to evaluate these leaks. On the one hand, this could mean that the White House supports the public option trigger. On the other, the leak could be an effort to whip up liberals and strengthen Harry Reid's hand when he says that he needs a viable public option to bring the bill to the floor. Or maybe this is just the White House following through on a promise to Olympia Snowe. Or maybe this is the White House stepping in to play the bad guy on the public option to keep Snowe's vote. Or maybe it's an effort to shift the goalposts a bit to the right so a state-based opt-in plan seems like a victory to liberals.

It's all a bit hard to say. If we do get a public-option trigger, it will be testament to the power Olympia Snowe now holds in this process. Aside from her, there's virtually no affirmative support for a trigger. Unlike the state-based public option ideas, the liberals don't even consider the proposal a compromise. To them, it's simply a loss. Moderates such as Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh have begun talking up Tom Carper's idea to allow states to create their own public options, which most liberals also prefer to the trigger. The trigger concept is an idea with a constituency of one, but when that one is Olympia Snowe, it may be enough.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 23, 2009; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Am I the only person that is completely fed-up with Snowe - to the point where effort to totally defeat (or ignore) her becomes a primary beacon of success.

Her comments yesterday to Brian Beutler at TPM were the last straw.

The arrogance of her second/third class mind and first class ego is just astounding.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | October 23, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Constituency of Two: Rahm Emmanuel. He was shilling this earlier in the year. He doesn't want a PO, anymore than Snowe does. A "trigger" is a way to claim there is a PO in the healthcare "win" while never delivering on it.

Odds on the source for Allen's piece a day after *all* the news was headed in two directions: Senate Opt-Out and House Medicare + 5%?

That's not a shifting of the goalposts, Ezra. That's moving from the stadium to the practice field. The only reason to do it is to give some backbone to the Blue Dogs and the ConservaDems to hold out. Who is their supporter in the White House?


Posted by: toshiaki | October 23, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

If Dems can get Conrad and Nelson and Bayh on board with an opt-out option, why do they even need Snowe? Are they worried about others like Landrieu and/or Lieberman and/or Lincoln? Are they worried Robert Byrd won't be able to make it for a floor vote? You don't get a bipartisanship medalk for getting a single vote from the other side of the aisle, a vote from a Senator who is to the left of several Dems and who represents a blue state that wants the public option. If they really need and want Snowe's vote, it's not because they want to preserve the illusion of bipartisanship, it's because they don't have 60 without her. And it appears that the only way to get her to sign on - if indeed she is cloture vote 60 - is to give her the trigger she holds dear. (likely not because she thinks its the bestest thing ever but because it's hers)

I don't know. If you don't have 60, then you either get Olympia with a trigger or you don't even get the bill voted out of the Senate. The latter is worse, right?

What's sickening is that I'm getting the sense that what Snowe and Baucus want more than anything is to go down in history as the dealmakers once this thing pass. That's why Max lost he mind when he found out that Reid was leaning away from the trigger as a public option compromise. If there is no trigger and the Dems can still get 60, both Baucus and Snowe become irrelevant, unless Baucus decides to vote against cloture out of spite.

Posted by: shamey73 | October 23, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"Rahm Emmanuel. He was shilling this earlier in the year. He doesn't want a PO, anymore than Snowe does."

There may be something to this. Rahm helped create the Conservadem alliance and he's probably more considered with making sure as many of them retain their seats as possible as opposed to getting a real public option. I like big majorities too but I think you can sacrifice some Blue Dogs and still retain a majority in both houses...enough of a majority to get some good stuff done.

Posted by: shamey73 | October 23, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Agree with John. We were right on the verge of the House passing real reform in the form of the Medicare+5% PO, and what happens? Obama lets it be known the he prefers Snowe's trigger. Now we've got 50-60 House Democrats who have switched back to undecided. Who can blame them? This President is a disaster.

Posted by: bmull | October 23, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Ezra wrote, "Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh have begun talking up Tom Carper's idea to allow states to create their own public options, which most liberals also prefer to the trigger..."

Most liberals? Where are the polls supporting that assertion? What about liberals in red states who will get left behind after contributing their money and time for health care for all (no, the opt-out provision will not turn red states blue)?

The trigger vs. the opt-out compromise is the difference between a crap sandwich on white and a crap sandwich on wheat.

Posted by: cjo30080 | October 23, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Boy howdy does polling for the PO continue to suck:

What's funny is that it's now 47-47-6... in the SOUTH.

With the exception of the GOP and the South, the polling is frankly spectacular in all three of the questions. Any one of them should open up Blue Dog and ConservaDem eyes. But the last one is the eyeopener on how this has turned: it's now a major negative among Dems to be against it, and is becoming crippling among Indies. 2.5-1 Less Likely ratio, and any issue that "turns off" 34% of Indies *without* seeing most of the other 66% in the "turn on" bucket is a major negative. Instead, only 14% of Indies are more likely to vote for someone who was against the PO.

No doubt some ConservaDems and Blue Dogs are so bought off that they don't care. But some are at risk, and not from the GOP anymore.


Posted by: toshiaki | October 23, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse


I really think that if she's over 200 votes, Nancy should call the Blue Dog's (and Rahm's) bluff and put Medicare + 5% into the mergered Tri-Com bill. Force the fence sitters to vote against it, or force Rahmn to get off his ass and actually push his Blue Dogs to support Health Care.

Unlike the Senate where something like that might annoy Blanche enough to not vote for cloture, it's not likely to send enough Dems running that they can't get 218 with the CBO Score, the current polling, and White House support.

If the White House doesn't help whip for it, then Nancy has exposed what the White House is all about. Which at this point, I'm frankly all for.


Posted by: toshiaki | October 23, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

everytime i see a photograph of olympia snowe, i fleetingly think it is anne bancroft.
i expect to see dustin hoffman in the edge of the photograph.
it is quite a resemblance.

Posted by: jkaren | October 23, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Y'know, there's this person who lives in my building in Alexandria, VA -- and he's got Maine license plates a bumper sticker that says: "Olympia: OUR Senator" on his car.

Boy. I never knew how true that really could be!

Posted by: ajw_93 | October 26, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

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