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Harry Reid: “We’re leaning towards talking about a public option”

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“We’re leaning towards talking about a public option," said Harry Reid at a press conference today. Greg Sargent, along with a lot of other reporters, thought this was a weird comment. I think it reveals more than people realize, and it should make public option supporters very happy.

The negotiators can do one of two things with the public option. Figure out a compromise to put in the bill during the negotiations phase, or ignore the issue completely and let it get decided on the floor. In other words, they can talk about it or they can decide against talking about it. This quote suggests that they're leaning towards figuring out the issue in negotiations rather than leaving it to the floor.

That's a big win for public option advocates. If they get something in during negotiations, opponents will need to muster 60 votes to remove it on the floor. If the public option has the 52 supporters that Sen. Tom Harkin estimates, then that's impossible.

But if Baucus, Reid, and Dodd decide against settling the question during negotiations, then the public option's advocates will need 60 votes to add it into the bill. Harkin's 52 senators can't beat the filibuster on their own, and as he counts a solid five votes against a public option, it's not clear they can beat it all. The public option's survival, in other words, probably depends on whether it gets talked about this week in the Finance/HELP negotiations or left to battle against a filibuster on the floor.

Photo credit: AP/Harry Hamburg.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 20, 2009; 4:31 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Comments

so basically they're saying its either one of two things:

1-reform with a public option

2-no reform at all.


they're taking a big risk with the uninsured population and their ability to get healthcare.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 20, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Most likely compromise: Opt-out public option.

Posted by: maritza1 | October 20, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I am still amazed at how little discussion is going on about the quality of the public option that will be in the final bill. Put in a state-based, opt-out, firewall exchanged offered public option (e.g. only available to 10% of population) and the left would declare massive victory. You'd have Ed Schultz proclaiming they won, meanwhile very little effect would every be seen, and the press would later declare that the failure of government intervention in health care proves that larger government is wrong in any form.

Wake me when the debate is about Wyden's Free Choice Amendment.

Posted by: mayorm | October 20, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

It might get inserted during the Joint House Senate negotiations if it doesn't make it into the final Senate bill.

I trust the Reid is going to do whatever Obama's advisors suggest he needs to do to make that happen. If that means no public option until joint conference, so be it.

On the other hand, putting the public option into the Senate bill would be a great way to get a whip count for the final vote. If there are really enough votes to stop a bill with the public option, then they can still remove it with amendment to get the bill to pass.

Posted by: zosima | October 20, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

The public option in the exchange is the camel's nose under the tent. Once the public option is available, more and more people will demand it and soon the exchange and the public option will be open to all companies in the style of the Wyden plan. That is what I hope for anyway.

Posted by: srw3 | October 20, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I obviously haven't a clue about this if we do it this way we need 60, if we do it another way, they have to have 60/

Inquiring minds want to know (motto)

Posted by: shelgreen | October 20, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

So should we all be hoping Obama's got his finger on the scale?

Posted by: leoklein | October 20, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I am not sure Ezra is correct that 60 votes would be required to remove the public option from the bill if it were included, though I agree having the public option in the initial bill which comes to the Senate floor provides a better opportunity for it than if it must be offered and passed as a floor amendment.

Under Senate rules, there could be a filibuster on the "motion to proceed" to a bill containing a public option. So long as 41 Senators were willing to support that filibuster (maybe all Republicans plus Ben Nelson? or 39 Republicans plus Nelson and Mary Landrieu?) and opposed cloture the filibuster would continue. Of course at that point, we get into other strategic and tactical considerations such as whether it is better to just allow the filibuster----to actually force Republicans to try to hold the floor to talk the bill to death while Democrats are scoring political points by branding the Republican Party as the Party of NO and delaying action on a bill of great importance to the American people.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | October 21, 2009 1:42 AM | Report abuse

As a followup to the previous post on the potential of a filibuster on the "motion to proceed," it is important to note that if cloture was achieved and the filibuster ended, then any efforts to remove a public option from the bill would require a majority vote. If Senator Tom Harkin is correct that there are at least 52 solid Democratic votes for a public option of some sort, then the effort to strip the public option from the bill would be defeated.

The question becomes which sort of public option could actually pass the Senate? Is the Carper/Schumer proposal for a state-based public option allowing states to opt out capable of passing? Is Schumer's "even-playing-field" public option proposal capable of attaining 50 votes (with Biden casting a tie-breaking vote)? Or is Snowe's public option "trigger" mechanism the public option that could pass? It is rather clear that the truly robust Rockefeller public option tied to Medicare rates could not pass due to its potential effects on rural states.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | October 21, 2009 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Nothing short of a robust Medicare+5% public option is worth doing. Reid is talking about "a public option" as being either Snowe's trigger, Carper's opt-in, or Schumer's opt-out. None of those is a robust Medicare+5% public option.

The robust public option wouldn't have the support of a majority of doctor if it would bankrupt them. I guarantee you I could open a medical practice anywhere in the country and thrive on Medicare+5% rates. Those who are opposed, and their toadies in Congress, just doesn't want any administered rates because right now they're the ones deciding how much they get paid. We can't afford that.

Posted by: bmull | October 21, 2009 3:23 AM | Report abuse

bmull,

are you a doctor? Why would you assume that you could live anywhere in the US and survive on medicare or medicare +5%. DOes that include the 21% reduction in medicare reimbursement or not?


On CNN last night there was a doctor that spoke of 48% of his practice being with medicare patients and if that 21% reduction happened it would kill his practice. So basically Democrats are holding many US doctor hostage. Stand behind reform or we'll bankrupt you with the SRG. Kind of like the tactics they're taking with insurers. The overall message:

"Don't cross this liberal government or we'll take you all out while we have power".

Not quite the checks and balances this countries founders had in mind huh?


ANd I LOVE the new report by CBO that shows Pelosi's PO brings it down to $871 Billion. The question that won't be answered is how many doctors will retire based upon that.

I almost hopes that it happens so that liberals can be seen for the idiots they are for not striking a harmonious balance between cost and access. But i guess in a couple years they can say "OOPS" we were wrong. Or better yet they'll find a way to blame Republicans.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 21, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Stop calling it a public option. There is nothing public, or optional about it. It is a government takeover of the American people in order to establish a communist style dictatorship!

And I hope all of you stupid media minions who think you are fooling the people know that commie pig dictators always kill off the journalists and university professors FIRST!

Posted by: Patriotparty1 | October 21, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

"are you a doctor? Why would you assume that you could live anywhere in the US and survive on medicare or medicare +5%."

Oh, mercy me, a dermatologist might have to consider not buying Little Jennie a brand new pony this Christmas.

Once there are reports of doctors living in homeless shelters, then I'll stop laughing at you.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | October 21, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

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