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Reid to announce a public option?


At 3:15 p.m. today, Harry Reid will hold a news conference explaining what's in the Senate bill. Expectations are that he's going to announce the inclusion of a national public option that states can reject if they choose. Politico reports that a weekend whip count turned up 56 or 57 votes, though the bigger question is whether Reid can count on 60 votes to close down a filibuster. If he can't, then, as Chris Frates says, he'll at least be able to say he tried:

One Democratic health care lobbyist suggested that Reid's trouble rounding up 60 votes to bring a bill with a public option opt-out to the floor suggests that the support isn't there for the opt-out when it becomes time to vote on the bill. But if Reid gets the bill to the floor with an opt-out and is forced to water it down later to win votes, he can still make the case with liberals and unions that he did what he could to get it passed -- a key point considering that Reid will need the left's help in what's shaping up to be a tough reelection bid.

This accomplishes two things for Reid. First, as Frates's unnamed lobbyist points out, he can lose this vote but credibly claim that he went to bat for a pretty good compromise on the public option. Second, it creates consequences for those who want to vote against the public option. Rather than killing the proposal in a back room, moderates who won't vote for cloture will actually have to vote against cloture. That makes them a target in their next election, and ensures a lot of harassment from the left. Reid is, in other words, making it harder -- not impossible, but harder -- for them to oppose the public option. Procedurally, it's a big win for public option advocates.

Photo credit: Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg

By Ezra Klein  |  October 26, 2009; 1:50 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Who needs bipartisanship?


Anybody who doesn't vote for cloture will NOT have Democratic voters in their upcoming elections.

So far 2 people out of the 4 hold outs are: Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson. I am not sure who the other 2 are.

Posted by: maritza1 | October 26, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

What happens if the 60 votes for cloture are not their with a national opt-out public option? Then we don't get health care reform? Dangerous game. Presumably Reid will have a procedural answer for this...

Posted by: MyrtleParker | October 26, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Throughout the health care reform process, liberals have been told by various folks that Obama will swoop down and save the day at the last second ... but just wait a littttle bit and quiet down until then.

No matter what happens from here on out, at least the left knows where Obama stands on what's (rightfully or wrongfully) become a litmus test for the left, the public option. He tried to block it.

Leaving the first big progressive legislation in years totally up to Harry Reid had been incredibly frustrating because it wasn't known whether Obama had some super secret strategy (learning from "Clinton's mistakes"), or whether he was tacitly opposing more-progressive legislation (by working with Messina to make reform-weakening deals, but working with Baucus and delaying the Finance Committee, by weirdly going after Snowe in the last moments to gain one GOP vote and substantially weaken reform, etc). All that could be reasoned away, but actively pushing against a moderate opt-out compromise cannot.

So it seems sorta ironic that when Obama finally gets the largest piece of progressive legislation in a generation on his table, progressives will *finally* know what little they can expect of his administration. At the same time, the party discipline absent presidential leadership has been really, really surprising....

Posted by: Chris_ | October 26, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse


you're also forgetting that those moderates if they vote against cloture on the public option may also be getting support from the right as well as the flak from the left. Remember as idiotic as Joe Wilson was, he was a no-name in the Republican party before the "you lie" comment. Same goes for Rep. Grayson in the converse.

And the far left seems to be so crazy for blood on the public option that I doubt that many would say "good try Harry". Somehow I don't sense that feel good spirit with many of them.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 26, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Will moderates really have to vote against cloture? I think how it works is that they would simply have to not vote for cloture and the bill would stall out.

Posted by: spotatl | October 26, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

So far 2 people out of the 4 hold outs are: Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson. I am not sure who the other 2 are.

Posted by: maritza1 | October 26, 2009 1:59 PM


The other potential ones are:

Evan Bayh (D-Wellpoint)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

It seems unlikely that Ben wants to "go it alone" in a cloture vote. If there's one other, then he would help give that one "cover" by being a second. He seems to be far, far, far more willing to do that behind the scenes than in a Cloture Vote.

Bayh likely has been extremely strong behind the scenes to try to water down the bill as much as possible for his wife's company, but because of the obvious connection doesn't want to be out there publically leading the charge. He seems unlikely to be just One, not completely be "and maybe Two". If it's Blanche and Nelson, and the two of them can point to Snowe as well for coverage ("If we were just reasonable, we could have a bill Olympia would vote for."), then you might see Bayh be #3.

He would far more prefer to have a Gang, which drags in Landrieu so that he gets buried in a Gang of 4 "moderate" (i.e. very conservative) Democratic Senators.

Blanche is in an interesting position. She is highly at risk of losing in the coming election, and very much from the GOP. At the moment she has no challenger on the Dem side, so she has very little incentive to beat back someone coming at her for failing to support the Dem platform. In addition, while there's little doubt that she would love to keep being Senator Blanche, she also has will have the love of Big Health, Big Energy and the Walton Family if she runs the table of their agenda for the balance of her term, which is the opposite of the Dem's agenda. She has the potential of a nice Golden Parachute right into the private sector in a number of ways that shakes the multi-million dollar corporate tree.

There's not a lot of incentive for her to support the Dems.

On the other hand, the Dems just played musical chairs to make her the Chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee. Leadership really is expected to support the party on Colture.

Frankly, Reid should make it clear that any member of Democratic Leadership that does not go with the Party on *all* of the Cloture Votes on this and other issues will get bounced from their spot in Leadership. This would include:

Agriculture: Blanche
Budget: Conrad
Finance: Baucus
HS & GA: Lying Lieb
Small Business: Landrieu

Along with other members of Leadership (which is less of an issue on this one).

You can vote against the bill, but as a member of Democratic Leadership, you're expected to vote party lines on Cloture.

That's not unreasonable.


Posted by: toshiaki | October 26, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

A procedural victory perhaps, but what if he fails and the trigger would actually garner 60 votes? Is it better to lose any public option possibility? Given what I've heard about the proposed trigger based on affordability, it would almost certainly come into effect.

Now perhaps the trigger is seen as the compromise that they can get to if/when the opt-out fails to get cloture. But the risk of failure seems real to me. Based on public comments by the wavering dems, I'm not sure I'd take this bet.

Posted by: twaidmann | October 26, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

No Dem would ever refuse to vote for cloture on the party's signature issue. This was manufactured hysteria used to marginalize the left.

Posted by: bmull | October 26, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Not sure it was manufactured to marginalize the left....I think it may have been partially manufactured to "mobilize" the left, which it certainly has. And the media has done a LOUSY job of explaining the 60 vote thing -- Ezra has tried several times, but he is nearly alone in doing so. Putting the public option IN and making it necessary for Republicans to get Dems to help them take it out was the only way it could have survived. And it has survived largely due to the work of progressives getting people to call Congress, well timed polls, etc.

Posted by: LindaB1 | October 26, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln don't win elections because of liberal Democrats. Suggesting that opposing the public option in states that are overwhelmingly conservative (Arkansas and Nebraska, for instance)is going to hurt them electorally is just plain silly. Given the situation Blanche Lincoln is in now, her support for a public option would be the end of her Senate career.

Posted by: Bob65 | October 26, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

It amazes me that people keep citing polls. EVERY single major poll shows that more people are opposed to health care reform than are for it. A majority may claim they support the public option, but that same majority does not want Obamacare.

Posted by: Bob65 | October 26, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Bob65, what part of universal healthcare are you opposed to? It seems to me that covering everyone is a good idea. I'm just learning so I may be wrong (ha!), but I'm trying to learn!

Posted by: huntersteph4 | October 26, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse


you may be right IF those moderates were actually Democrats. They're not. They may caucus with them but if they want to survive in their conservative states they're going to prove that Harry doesn't know how to count to 60.

I sure hope the national public option opt out was worth destroying any chance at ANY reform because I have a feeling that we're not going to get anything done. Sorry to all of those with pre-existing conditions. I hope the fight for the public option was worth it.

Reid should have taken the lesson that over the weekend it seemed President Obama took from the Kennedy/Nixon healthcare tussle in the 70's.

See you all back here in 5-10 years.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 26, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I am not opposed to universal healthcare. I am opposed to the government having anything to do with it. It just simply fascinates me that people want the most corrupt, greedy, power hungry institution in the United States to run health care. These people spend all their time griping about greedy corporations and then turn right around and support an institution that is so corrupt and run by people so greedy, it makes the insurance companies look like charities in comparison.

Furthermore, the notion that the government will "compete" with private health care is ridiculous. That is like having a basketball game with one of the team's members also being the referee. A huge majority of the people with insurance like what they have. A public option will drive the private insurers out of business and will casue those left to raise premiums. Just look at Massachusetts for an example of this.

Posted by: Bob65 | October 26, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

"I am not opposed to universal healthcare. I am opposed to the government having anything to do with it."

Private industry has had decades to come up with a method of providing universal coverage, and they failed. Heck, _civilization_ has a 6000 year track record of failure when it comes to private entities providing universal services. On the other hand, right now, we have an example of modern 1st world nations that provide universal health coverage. I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to use solutions that have a track record of failure when there are other solutions with a track record of success.

Posted by: tyromania | October 26, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

It needs to be made clear that any democrat who votes against cloture will face a primary challenge. The more groups who can get behind the effort and make it clear that not only will this be true in 2010, but will continue through 2014.

For better or worse, this is how Grover Norquist and the anti-tax movement have made it essentially impossible to pass new taxes at a Federal level.

Taken too far, it will eventually ruin a party, but it makes a big difference in terms of party discipline.

Posted by: TWAndrews | October 26, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Any democrat who votes against cloture MUST face a primary challenge, that HAS to happen, and I have no doubt it will. If Lieberman was a target for his relatively trifling transgressions, the Dem who opposes cloture on this signature issue will be a target 100 times as large. The only way that would work is to vote against cloture and then switch parties, beacuse as happy and gleeful Republicans may be about such an event, they aren't likely to vote for sweet and dear Blanche Lincoln because she stood up for Insurance Companies. Let's see how they win their states where over 75% of the Democrats want a public option, especially when a primary challenger blasts this on the airwaves 24-7. All the base has to do is expose how their so-called Dem Senator killed Health Care reform. No; the reason they would vote against cloture is a big fat BRIBE, and I'm sure the Insurance Companies will be happy to oblige. Heck didn't someone here say they've already got Bayh's wife in Health Care Industry Heaven? So who else wants a nice job with perks and a great retirement package? And should I add platinum health-care for life? Look at Tom Daschle, so called man of the people, now working directly for the Health Care Consortium flagellating his sorry rear to kill reform.

Posted by: martinalles | October 26, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

"Anybody who doesn't vote for cloture will NOT have Democratic voters in their upcoming elections."

Oh please.

If the economy keeps going the way it is - that is, when unemployment is well over 10% - by the 2010 election noone is going to care whether someone voted for or against cloture on this vote.

Posted by: invention13 | October 26, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Bob65 yeah that makes a lot of sense. I read about a non-profit that has been providing managed healthcare for nearly a million people and is running in the black. Do you think this could possibly work on a larger scale?

Posted by: huntersteph4 | October 27, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

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