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Tilting at Windmills

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August 29, 2009

REID'S MUDDLED SUPPORT FOR A PUBLIC OPTION.... On a conference call yesterday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) emphasized his support for a public option as part of health care reform. That support started sounding a little shaky, though, when the Democrats' Senate leader explained what he means by "public option."

"I've told people, whoever will listen, that I am in favor of the public option," Reid said in answer to a participant who asked why he hasn't been more vocal on his position. "We're working now to try to come up with a program that would allow that to take place."

Reid said a public option is essential to provide competition to private insurance companies that enjoy an exemption from federal anti-trust laws.

He added that "a lot of people misunderstand" the public option as "some government run program."

"But there are many ways we can do it," he said. "One would be to have an entity like Medicare. I really don't favor that. I think what we should have is a private entity that has direction from the federal government."

This comes as something of a surprise. Reid "really" doesn't "favor" a Medicare-like public option, which I thought was largely the point of the public option. The "private entity," rather, sounds like a co-op.

Reid's perspective on this is no small matter. As the Senate Majority Leader, if Reid balks on a real public option, and prefers co-ops, the chances of the final Senate bill including a genuine public option are remote. Reid's challenge of rallying support for a bill along the lines of the HELP Committee's legislation would be hard enough under the current circumstances. If he's announcing, "I really don't favor" a "government-run" plan, the hurdle becomes insurmountable.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley later told Brian Beutler, "The govt could contract w a private company to administer the public option. [Sen. Reid] is willing to consider a co-op if he is shown it works to make insurers honest."

That doesn't exactly clear up what it is Reid will be fighting for in September.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Harry Reid is turning into a pathetic excuse for a Democrat; it's becoming more and more obvious that the right wing of the GOP must have photos of this guy in bed with either a dead hooker or a live boy.... for him to sell out the people who voted Obama into office so easily makes me think that somewhere someone has huge leverage on this idiot... What a fraud; Reid is no Senate leader -- dump him!

Posted by: Patrick Hasburgh on August 29, 2009 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Try to remember that Medicare is privately administered, as is almost every other government health care program, save the direct service providers (VA - and even it contracts with some private parties). Not that Harry Reid covered himself in glory for style, clarity or substance of thought. I have no idea what he really meant.

Posted by: Barbara on August 29, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

I agree its a bit unclear what Reid is trying to say here and, typical of Reid, that is probably intentional. He is basically avoiding committing to anything. However, it also doesn't really sound like he is supporting co-ops, at least not the type of co-ops that Conrad is imagining. If he is saying that he wants this public program to be administered as a private company, it sounds like he is thinking of something more like the Post Office which is governed as a public entity but mostly operates as a private non-profit entity in terms of how its funded. His bizarre lack of clarity is certainly frustrating and deeply annoying but it is not necessarily the case that he is wavering on a real public option.

Posted by: brent on August 29, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Why in the world was a mealy-mouthed wuss like Harry Reid made the Senate Majority Leader? Clearly, he is weak and is no leader at all. The public option should be administered by the HHS department. Creating a middle-man in the private sector only adds unnecessarily to overhead and would make the plan more expensive.

Posted by: PS on August 29, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Barbara... I just lose it with this guy; he is so muddled and weak... there is a piece missing... I just don't trust him; Reid has always let me down -- I think I expect him to be a great man, and he, sadly, isn't even a very good one.

Posted by: Patrick Hasburgh on August 29, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Reid missed his true calling. He should slither out to the garden and eat the dahlias.

Posted by: T-Rex on August 29, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone familiar with federal regulations on coops? My guess is that they have been watered down and weakened so much that they are now not much different than corporations. And, at least in the area of agriculture with which I am most familiar, coops do not offer any competition at all compared with private firms offering the same goods and services. And politically, the coops I have any dealing with are some of the most conservative, right leaning organizations that continually lobby against progressive legislation at both the state and federal level. The lefty hippie food coops many are familiar with may not be the best models for thinking about health coops.

Posted by: lou on August 29, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

The perpetual party myth

People that write books like The Coming Democratic Majority look like such fools right now. Has anybody seen a political majority more quickly destroy itself than the 2008 Dems?

Reid is losing in the Nevada polls right now. Rather than sit straight and stay on message he waffles hoping to improve his position. This is happening in districts all over the country. But waffling NEVER improves a politician's position when the issue is a big ticket item that requires principles not politics...

Reid is going down.
The Dems are going down.
And then some wag will write a book: The Coming Republican Majority.

The bottom line of all this is your country is FUSBAR: fucked-up stupid beyond all repair. It waffles from one coming majority to another. Nothing gets done. Nothing gets solved. It yaws to the left, it pitches to the right. Huge global problems of waves keep coming...

These are the symptoms of an empire in decline.
It is worth repeating this thought:

Passing a strong healthcare bill is as important for the future of this country as was electing Barack Obama. Without it, the pitch and yaw becomes terminal. Without it the democratic party's coming majority is cooked. Without it cap-and-trade is cooked. Without it we are all ultimately cooked...

I think a lot of you sense this...
I am just putting it in solid words for you.

Posted by: koreyel on August 29, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

We'd like to thank Harry for that authentic piece of U.S. Senate gibberish.

Posted by: JMG on August 29, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

OH, THAT KIND OF COOP -- I must admit, I'm a little foggy myself on how coops might work -- but up here in Canada we have Mountain Equipment Coop... which is the cheapest and best place to buy mountaineering gear; I am a US citizen living in Canada with my wife and two young children -- I was in the hospital last year with severe pneumonia, two weeks, intensive care -- cost me NOTHING.... except for our $86.00 a month for BC Care for the whole family; in the States we were paying $1380.00 month... But anyway, if a healthcare coop could be as efficient and cheap as mtn equip. coop I'd consider giving Reid a short reprieve... but he is still a wank... Thanks for such a civil comment blog; I will tone it down.

Posted by: Patrick Hasburgh on August 29, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

How much longer is it going to be before he dries up and blows away? When are Dems going to get a Senate leader with some backbone.

Posted by: WalterK on August 29, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

"That doesn't exactly clear up what it is Reid will be fighting for in September."

I'm not sure those words -- "fighting" and "Reid" -- ever belong in the same sentence.
I'm much more sure that the phrase "fighting for" and "Reid" don't belong together.

Posted by: smartalek on August 29, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Does Reid have a primary candidate yet?

Posted by: PeakVT on August 29, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

It's really depressing that we finally have solid majorities in both chambers, and a Democrat as President with a mandate for change.

Too bad we don't have an equally strong Senate Majority Leader.

Imagine, just imagine what could get done if we had a Leader with charisma, with forceful temperment, drive, and resolve.

This is an opportunity to push for real change, and to make history.

Makes me wonder whether that was the fear--ensure a weak Leader is in place when the tide turns, and then forever lament what could have happened if only we had a strong Leader at the time.

Posted by: terraformer on August 29, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

reid's big fight is called "re-election" -- here, i'll use it in a sentence:

reid is more concerned about the corporate bucks and power than he is rallying his constituents in nevada for good health care reform, so much so that he is willing to sell out everything in order to git the corporations to help him win his re-election.

Posted by: neill on August 29, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

These are the symptoms of an empire in decline.

Keen observation and true words.

Which is why I vote we dissect this country now rather than later. Dissect may not be the correct word I'm looking for here. Quarantine. Yes, let's quarantine the south by giving them their freedom. Hell they can start up slavery again if they want and enact every GOP wet dream policy they've ever imagined. So long as a large wall is built around it, I don't care.

But quarantining this cancer might just be the only way to prolong the empire in it's waning years. Progress, movement of some kind, has got to be made by us, or it will be made for us.

Posted by: oh well on August 29, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

That doesn't exactly clear up what it is Reid will be fighting for in September.

Reid? Fight? You must be joking, right?

Reid will be fighting for his job next November. And we should support his Republican opponents - just to teach both him and the other Democrats a lesson.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on August 29, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Oh well, I understand your irritation and motivation, but what about those of us in the South+ Repub area that don't want them running it? And no, no slavery again. Liberals and blacks in the South will have to try harder.

Posted by: delver on August 29, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Passing a strong healthcare bill is as important for the future of this country as was electing Barack Obama. Without it, the pitch and yaw becomes terminal. Without it the democratic party's coming majority is cooked. Without it cap-and-trade is cooked. Without it we are all ultimately cooked...

This is good; and not only do I hear you but I've said similar things myself.

But let me put it to you.

Let us suppose we are evolving toward some sort of transnational network-based sort of society. Such that the current healthcare travails are but a symptom of the larger decline of the nationstate.

How do you propose to deliver transnational, networked healthcare?

Or are we just talking anarchy?

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on August 29, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

"...a private entity that has direction from the federal government."

Sounds kinda like the Post Office, which some pro-reform advocates have used as an example of how the federal government does a good job of providing reasonably-priced services in competition with private enterprise.

P.O.-like entity used to support our argument: Good.

P.O.-like entity when Reid uses it: Bad.

Posted by: converse on August 29, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

It appears that Senator Reid (and SAMPSON) are among the 63% of Americans who don't understand what the public option is. And if they don't understand what the public option is, how can they possibly understand why it is necessary? Much less, in Reid's case, defend it from irrational attacks?

I wish both sides of this conversation, the pro and con, understood what is being discussed. Instead we have, on the one side, people who understand the problem--that we have a crisis of health care in the US--and the recommended solution. But on the other side, we have people who still think the only problem is government (and taxes.) Thus, the random and hysterical ravings by the confused, the partisan, the greedy, the mean-spirited, the racist, the fear-mongers and the simply delusional. Why anyone thinks these know-nothings should influence the debate is beyond me!

Meanwhile, caught in the middle, we find people like Reid, who is trying to be a good soldier but without the conviction that comes from understanding the problem & the proposed solution, he can't argue with clarity. So, in the face of hysteria, Reid doesn't have a chance. He waffles.

Posted by: PTate in MN on August 29, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Reid is out of a job in 2010. That's why he needs the public healthcare. Illegals aren't going to save him. The backlash in non-minority states will be a tremendous detriment to blue dogs.

Barac is spending/printing/borrowing/communizing like a sex addict at a nevada brothel. he's out of control. you can see this mentality if you ever watch no deal or deal no. his kind always go for the greed and i laugh my bum off when the loss it all

Posted by: larenthal jones on August 29, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

P.O.-like entity when Reid uses it: Bad.

I don't think anyone has a problem with Reid proposing a Post Office style entity. Well, they might but that is not really the problem here. The real problem is that it is not at all clear what Reid is proposing. It could mean any one of a dozen things and many of those things would very badly compromise any public option. This muddies the water and disadvantages reform advocates in the larger debate.

Reid is not inarticulate. He could be very clear about this if that was his intent but it is precisely this sort of mealy mouthed neither here nor there statement that has made the health care reform debate so difficult.

Posted by: brent on August 29, 2009 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

In the end, some kind of deal will be done, and however weak it is, it will not be a decisive issue in 2010.

Those who are celebrating the incipient death of the Democratic party will be disappointed, and the other side is not helping itself at all.

We'll still have work to do on policy, unfortunately. It's says something the state of the country that the Democratic party is the best we can do now. But there's no question most people think the worst of the Republican party. Just wait till the elections, you'll see. Minimal losses for the D's at worst.

Posted by: Frank C. on August 29, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Those who are celebrating the incipient death of the Democratic party will be disappointed, and the other side is not helping itself at all.

You may have a point.

Take the Ottoman Empire, for example. It was identified as the "Sick Man of Europe" as early as 1700 or thereabouts. Yet it took several centuries to get rid of it.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on August 29, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Harry needs to Reid up on his public option, being the Senate Majority Leader and all......

Posted by: GTrollop on August 29, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

I can't wait until Al Franken takes over Reid's job.

Posted by: goin' down on August 29, 2009 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not get hung up on the public option. Whatever version may come out of the Senate or even out of the House, it will be too weak to counter the power of insurance companies.

What we need is regulation. Instead of worrying about a public option we should work to make the national insurance exchange system a powerful entity to encourage competition.

We must focus on regulation, not unknown entities, whether public or private.

Posted by: Paul Siegel on August 29, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

That's it. I'm donating money to Reid's opponents, and encouraging all my friends and relatives to do the same. He has got to go!

Posted by: JC on August 29, 2009 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

There is a huge difference between "a private entity that has direction from the government" (singular) and coops (plural). There is a smaller (but still important) difference between a government controlled entity and a government agency.

The question is agency or coop, it is coops (basically a tiny subsidy and hope) vs one big coop (close to a government agency in effect).

There is a difference between a barely regulated coop which works for top management (Do you even know if blue cross-blue shield is still a coop ? I don't know or care) and acoop directed by the government.

There is some difference between one big and government controlled coop and an agency. First the coop won't be able to borrow at the same interest rates as the treasury. Second the coop won't have to pay civil service salaries -- I'd guess in practice this means its managers will be paid much more.

Finally there is an important difference between the medicare administration and the general fund.

Reid is undecided between a government agency which can not be subsidized from the public fund and one big government directed cooperative. This is really a very narrow range of vagueness.

In contrast the difference between one big coop and counting on "coopS" which Reid does not support is huge. Similarly there is a huge difference between a coop which is restricted only by the law on tax exempt non profits (meaning free to do what its management pleases mostly fill their pockets) and a government directed "private" entity.

Reid seems to me to have a clear view of what he wants. He's just trying to play semantic games related to what is and what isn't an agency of the federal governement. His compromise would be fine. I mean it's not like we had any trouble with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on August 29, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Reid just exposed what it is the WH really wants. The Rahm/Schumer HC INS. give away in exchange for industry money going to the democratic coffers come election time. Suddenly it's not about good policy or substance...it's about party power and making sure the lobbyists money goes to dems and not repubs.

Without a strong public option there is no real, meaningful reform...just a mandatory give away to private ins.

The first clue was so obvious that everyone just refuses to believe it. I'm talking about the private mtg (Obama said if he meant with powerful special interests like pharma it wouldn't be secretive like Cheney's energy mtgs. He'd have transparency...hell. he'd "do it on C-SPAN. Yet it was done in complete secrecy and without public disclosure of the details of their secret agreement), held in secret Obama had with the drug manufacturers with what amounts to billions of dollars in give aways, promising we won't bargain on drug prices. That was the big tip off...the "tell" that points to the public option as just a bargaining chip to give up as soon as the WH and dem leaders are assured the Ins. industry will not fund repubs or oppose dems come election time...Right winger/tea baggers will get exactly what they've been praying for...a HC industry that will bleed them dry slowly but surely.

Reid is less than enthused about any thing more than the rhetoric of reforming HC or helping the uninsured by any other means than subsidizing private ins with tax dollars. A 'real' democratic majority leader would be screaming it from the roof tops if that is what he really wanted...instead we get a confused mumbling goober who doesn't know what he is supposed to want. Getting rid of this guy can't happen fast enough he's such a weak majority leader, s0o soft spoken that without a microphone you'd have to read his lips to know what he's saying. No passion or inspiration. I know, I know..."he used to be great"...well he's well past that now. He's got a long way to go to prove he's got any strength left to lead.

Posted by: bjobotts on August 29, 2009 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Reid said a public option is essential to provide competition to private insurance companies that enjoy an exemption from federal anti-trust laws.

Repeal the anti-trust exemption.

Posted by: marketeer on August 29, 2009 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

you guys are just getting confused with regards to the connotations of the word "public option." of course it means public option, and it also means co-op. it can also mean:

wendy's chocolate milk shake

ghetto booty


so senator reid certainly did not misspeak. you folks are just sadly under-informed.

Posted by: M.B.S.S. on August 29, 2009 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

I always get a chuckle out of people that expect leadership and character out of Harry Reid. He is the man that lost Iraq back in 2006. Now it looks like Obama will be that man. Whatever.

Reid is for you Democrats; He belongs with you, and you are certainly welcome to keep him - I will look for someone with integrity, ethics, and that understands real Leadership.

Posted by: Bill Sanford on August 29, 2009 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, you could save a fair amount of time by writing a generic story about Harry Reid. It would always start off with "Reid's muddled. . ." and take it from there. The lead paragraph would be something like "Harry Reid took three different positions in the last four days on the issue of [fill in the blank: seating Roland Burris, exiting Iraq, health care, or whatever]." You can then go into the grisly details if you want to bother.

Reid thinks leadership means running in a circle and accomplishing nothing. I have to say, I thought the last Majority Leader was not too strong, but this guy keeps setting new records for incompetence. I'm sure we'll all miss him next November.

Posted by: Bob Royfills on August 29, 2009 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

By making a totally incoherent statement about his views on health care, Reid is just keeping his options open.

Posted by: lance sjogren on August 29, 2009 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Reid knows something y'all don't. Some of you don't seem to know very much about the prevailing mood of the country. You tried to pull a fast one, and it blew up in your faces. Reid knows it's time for a graceful retreat.

Posted by: Flint on August 29, 2009 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK


Some of the heated public opposition to the health care proposals has been centered on spurious issues, but there are a lot of legitimate concerns about the legislation that has been emerging in House committees, including the matter of the public option.

One concern I have: I have private health insurance with my former employer as an early retiree. I pay about 80% and the company chips in 20%.

Some experts have contended that government-funded health care programs like Medicare underpay providers, which they can get away with because of the clout they have from being the government. Then in order to recover their costs, the providers overcharge those covered by private insurance policies in order to make up the losses.

If that is the case, then having a new government-funded health care program could exacerbate this problem, causing people like me to have to pay more for my health care under the supposed "reform".

Obama's intention of squeezing 500 billion out of Medicare to help fund the new program reinforces my concern that people with health care like mine are going to get the short end of the stick in this so-called reform.

The biggest problem is that there is no "reform plan", Obama has a set of principles for what reform should include, I think those principles are excellent, then you have the Pelosi crowd in the House proposing legislation that doesn't meet any of the objectives that Obama has set, and Obama seems favorably disposed toward those legislative efforts, so what in the hell is going on here?

Posted by: lance sjogren on August 29, 2009 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Reid knows it's time for a graceful retreat."

And what could be more graceful that a retreat into incoherence?

That ought to shut the critics up. I mean, how can you get worked up into a lather over something that is too incoherent to be angry about?

Reid is truly a genius.

(won't save his career come next November, though)

Posted by: lance sjogren on August 29, 2009 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

You aren't going to get your trillion dollar premium subsidies, either.

Ate, blindness, self-destruction--an old, old pattern. Classic, you might say.

Posted by: Flint on August 29, 2009 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

I guess you guys don't understand that most Americans don't want the government interfering with our health care decisions. That's why there is little support for this latest boondoggle, Zero tells us to trust him but he's already shown that he's not worthy of trust.

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