11.30.2009 0

The Public Option Malaise

  • On: 12/07/2009 09:28:44
  • In: Health Care
  • By Robert Romano

    Call it the “public option” malaise.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) still does not have the 60 votes he needs to pass the so-called “public option” this year, which Senate Republicans say will cost some $2.5 trillion over ten years once fully implemented.

    At the moment, Reid lacks the unanimous support of his own caucus for the centerpiece of Barack Obama’s domestic policy agenda.

    According to the Associated Press, “on the issue of a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers, [Senators Joe] Lieberman and [Susan] Collins said they part ways with Reid. Rejecting a compromise that would allow states to opt out of the government plan, Lieberman is threatening to filibuster the bill.”

    Said Lieberman, “To me the public option, so-called — which is really a government-created and government-run insurance company — doesn’t support any of [the] purposes” of controlling costs, extending coverage to millions of uninsured and barring the insurance industry practices from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

    Making matters worse for Reid, Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who is also among the list of dissidents, has said she would oppose ending a filibuster against the “public option.” Meaning Reid is short at least two votes.

    As reported by NBC’s Ken Strickland, Lincoln most recently said, “I’ve been very clear. I don’t support a public option that is government funded or government run, and that puts the taxpayers at risk in the long run.”

    So, even if he picks up Senator Olympia Snowe’s (R-ME) support (by adding a so-called “trigger” to the “public option, for instance), he will need either Lincoln or Lieberman to go back on their words to their constituents to oppose the “public option” no matter what.

    Complicating matters for Reid is Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), who has said he would join the Republican filibuster against the bill. He wants the so-called Stupak language included from the House version of the bill restricting coverage for abortions. His amendment will come up for a vote early next week, according to the New York Times.

    That would leave Reid at least three votes short, meaning he would need to pick up some Republicans. But, to date, Reid has not persuaded a single Republican to come on board. According to Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), “We still don’t have a promise of a vote from the Republican side, so we would need his vote,” referring to Nelson.

    But even tightening up the abortion language may not be enough. Most Americans oppose the bill because of the “public option.” All told, 62 percent of voters oppose a single-payer system like the “public option,” according to Rasmussen Reports.

    Which may explain why Reid is still coming up short. With an election year right around the corner, vulnerable Senators like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, at least for the moment, are listening to their constituents—which seems increasingly wise.

    Should they cave into the “public option” malaise in the halls of the Senate this week, they may well fall to the public’s option at home come next November.

    Robert Romano is the ALG Senior News Editor.

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