Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 2, 2009

PUBLIC OPTION WATCH.... Under the circumstances, the chances of passing a health care reform bill with a public option in the Senate will hinge on a dozen or so senators, whose support will make or break the provision. As of last week, two of the 59 senators in the Democratic caucus -- Lieberman and Landrieu -- were definite (or near-definite) opponents of a public option.

This week, the on-the-fence senators are clarifying matters a little further. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) or Arkansas, who just found out she's facing a credible, top-tier conservative Republican opponent next year, now opposes a public option.

"For some in my caucus, when they talk about a public option they're talking about another entitlement program, and we can't afford that right now as a nation," Lincoln said in a speech to the Elder Law Task Force at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Lincoln has said previously she would support whatever health care plan worked, but she indicated Tuesday that a plan including an expensive, government-funded health insurance program would not get her vote.

"I'm not going to vote for a bill that's not deficit-neutral, and I'm not going to vote for a bill that doesn't do something about curbing the cost in the out years, because it would be pointless

... I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that," Lincoln told reporters before her speech.

This might be a good time to note that bloggers seem to be the only people in the country who realize that a public option would be cheaper than the alternative. If Lincoln is concerned about what "we can afford," she should be an enthusiastic champion of the public option. I suspect she knows this, but doesn't quite have the courage to explain this to her enraged constituents.

Other than Lincoln, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) seems iffy on the public option, though her in-state colleague, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), is an ardent supporter of the policy.

Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) was considered a "maybe," but he's making it clear he's a "yes" on the public option. David Sirota argues that this is the result of a credible primary challenger, and I think that's absolutely correct.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has said he supports a public option, but as of yesterday, he's no longer willing to say whether he backs the measure or not. This probably isn't a good sign.

And then there's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who offered a muddled position on a public option late last week. Yesterday, Reid's office clarified matters, explaining that the Majority Leader envisions a public option that would be administered in part by private entities, though the HHS would still set the policies.

Of course, there's one point that's always worth emphasizing when this comes up. It matters whether these senators support a public option, but it matters just as much whether these senators would also support a filibuster of a reform package that includes a public option. It's one thing to oppose the policy; it's another to vote with Republicans and prevent the Senate from even voting on the reform package at all.

Steve Benen 2:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Lieberman may be awful, but in the end I don't believe he'll actually vote against a bill just because it includes a public option.

He relies on the good graces of the Democratic party to keep his committee assignments and if he acts to block the key initiative of the party, even Harry Reid won't be able to protect him.

Posted by: Jinchi on September 2, 2009 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Really disappointed in Amy Klobuchar.

Posted by: skybluewater on September 2, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) seems iffy on the public option,..."

There's no excuse for a Minnesota Dem to waver. None.

Posted by: Chris on September 2, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

So how about a credible, top-tier primary challenger for Ms. Klobuchar, hmmmmm?

Posted by: Curmudgeon on September 2, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

I hope Obama will now introduce the idea that health care reform is tied into massive economic stimulus. That doesn't mean more employment in health care. It means that as health care declines from an incredible 17% of GDP to to a reasonable 9%, a trillion dollars of savings will create real economic growth.

Dummies like Lincoln have been misleading the public too long. I'm hoping the White House is waiting to fire till it sees the whites of their eyes.

Posted by: Bob M on September 2, 2009 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Am I wrong or is she way off in talking about entitlements and government funded public option? The House bill does not call for government funding except for initial start-up and then subsidies that can be used for public or private options. The public plan is self-supporting from premiums just like the other plans.

Posted by: Th on September 2, 2009 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, 4 posts and no Third party! Fourth party! Fifth party! chants? You mean people are figuring out that the Senate is the problem, and that maybe this one also needs to be considered:

That the pro public option grassroots got PLAYED this summer, didn't step up, and now they're blaming Obama?

Obama, like FDR, clearly said 'make me do it.' He will be as good as he is forced to be. That's politics. Wake up, webprogressives.

Posted by: Frank C. on September 2, 2009 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I am very interested in what Mike Ceresi or Steve Kelly think about the public option. Inquiring DFL'ers want to know.

Posted by: the seal on September 2, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Reid's office clarified matters, explaining that the Majority Leader envisions a public option that would be administered in part by private entities"

This would work about as well as the current Medicare Advantage plans that the for-profit private-sector health insurance corporations sell only if they receive a Corporate Welfare federal subsidy.

Posted by: Joe Friday on September 2, 2009 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

[...] the Majority Leader envisions a public option that would be administered in part by private entities [...] -- Steve Benen

The private entity in question being Blackwater Poultice, LTD? KBR? Haliburton Wellbeing? The moment we add a private entity administering the thing, we're adding an extra layer of bureaucracy. Might be good for paper-pushing jobs, but costly from the point of view of the healthcare. Screw Reid and the moulting pony he rode in on.

Posted by: exlibra on September 2, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I just wrote to Lincoln and called her out on her faux concern for "costs", noting that it would be believable if she were unintelligent, but because she's not, we'll just have to take it as yet another example of her siding with the wealthy and powerful to help them hold down all the poor dumb hicks in our state who inexplicably have continued to vote for her. And went on to say that as much as I loathe her opponent, if she votes to block a public option, I and many others who feel the way I do will hold our noses and vote for him - because if we're going to have a Republican senator, he might as well be a member of the Republican party.

For all the good it will do. Had I attached a check for $100K, she might even bother to send me an auto-generated reply.

Posted by: Jennifer on September 2, 2009 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

"I would not support a solely government-funded public option."

I wouldn't support a solely government-funded pony for very child in America but seeing as no one is proposing that anymore than they are proposing a solely government-funded public option I'm not going to worry about it. HR 3200 proposes all of $2 billion seed money for the public option and the rest of it will be funded by premiums paid by policy holders.

Posted by: markg8 on September 2, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

This health care thing has been an utterly disheartening lesson about the utter incompetence, mendacity and frivolousness of most of the Congress and most of the media.

Posted by: bdbd on September 2, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

I just don't understand how a person could weigh his or her political career against the health of millions of Americans and even hesitate to do the right thing. Evil truly is banal in the halls of Congress.

Posted by: buddy66 on September 2, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Jennifer....That was a searing comment. It's not like she didn't ask for it. We like you a lot. I hope it hurts her as much (to her conscience and credibility) as it looked like it hurt.

Posted by: QuestionEverything on September 2, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Again, I would like to refer people to Bill Moyers' advice as expressed on Bill Maher's show last Friday.

Moyers emphasized that the dispute should be kept simple and framed as a moral issue concerning the well-being of millions of Americans. Obama needs to stop refererencing excel spreadsheets and flow-charts and start addressing the heart of this problem, which is that nothing short of a public option will provide everyone with basic meaningful coverage.

Posted by: bdop4 on September 2, 2009 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Candidate Job Number One: Get elected.

Representative/Senator Job Number One: Get re-elected.

Silly voter. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 2, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Play the same game as republicans. have someone challenge them in the democratic primary.

Posted by: Jeremy Holland on September 2, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

As someone who "bought in" to Medicare @65, why can't we just offer it to all-at a Fair Market Value?

As mentioned elsewhere, Medicare covers the lion's share of the Halt and the Lame, yet still has lower operating expenses than for profit insurance.

What would be the numbers ($) if it was NOT Ms. Lincoln's "another government entitlement?"

just asking. . .

Posted by: DAy on September 2, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

So, we're supposed to vote Democratic in 2010 because... they bailed out the banks?

That would have more resonance if we got some reform out of the deal.

Posted by: Memekiller on September 2, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I applaud Jennifer's letter. It was great. I have sent letters to my rep and senators, as well, but it's like sending them to a black hole. I want to be able to *do* something. I think we progressives need to be more visible. Why are we not having a day where nationwide we gather together to show our strength in numbers? Why should we have to sink to the reform opponents' level of boorish, hateful behavior to be noticed? I think we need to do something more than show up at the town halls. If we turned out in huge numbers one day even the media would have to notice it.

Posted by: Missouri Mule on September 2, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

It WON'T HINGE on a dozen Senators if you use RECONCILIATION



Posted by: MSierra, SF on September 2, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Cowards second guess themselves when faced with quantum change - heroes embrace the good and go for it! We are at a juncture when we will see the brave heroes rise and succeed,or not, in the face of so many cowards! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 2, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Dummies like Lincoln have been misleading the public too long.

She's not a dummy. She's a piece of trash who's willing to enable the needless deaths of 18,000 Americans a year and the physical and economy misery of many, many millions because she cares more about keeping her Senate seat than she does about human life and dignity.

Posted by: shortstop on September 2, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Medicare contracts with private companies to administer (process the paperwork) regular Medicare. Medicare Advantage is a program where the insurance companies sell policies to Medicare eligible people and are then paid a per-person rate to insure them. Two separate programs.

Posted by: Th on September 2, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still confused how we expect to get meaningful health insurance reform out of utter bozos like these. They see the writing on the wall; they know their caucus is going to shrink, but they naively think it won't be them.

No, as long as the donations keep rolling in, they don't care about being nothing more than a footnote in history. There's no sense of purpose, no connection with the average citizen. We are ruled by the rich and the wannabe rich in a system to far gone to fix, it seems.

Honestly, any bill these corporatists come up with is going to make a bad system worse and destroy any chance at meaningful reform in the foreseeable future.

Lincoln can go fuck herself. She's the perfect example of why her namesake should go down as the worst President in our history. We should have just let Arkansas go, but thanks to him, we've fighting the war of Southern regression for decades now.

Posted by: doubtful on September 2, 2009 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe I'm overlooking the obvious, but exactly how do Blue Dogs think they'll get re-elected facing credible Republican challengers if they piss off Democrats who then don't vote for them?

Glad to see Bennett is finally coming around, though.

Posted by: colobex on September 2, 2009 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

You write: "Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) ... now opposes a public option."

She said: "I would not support a solely government-funded public option."

She did not say what you say she said. Here's what I really, really don't understand: why are you and almost everyone else looking for bad news, looking for evidence that Obama is weak, looking for a chance to bash some Democrat?

She is giving herself an out.

If you don't get that one, how about here: "For some in my caucus, when they talk about a public option they're talking about another entitlement program, and we can't afford that right now as a nation..."

She is NOT saying that she is against any and all forms of the public option.

Two sentences, two outs. You can accuse her of being vague, mushy, etc. What you shouldn't do is write that she said something she clearly did not say.

Posted by: CMcC on September 2, 2009 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

You conclude: "It matters whether these senators support a public option, but it matters just as much whether these senators would also support a filibuster of a reform package that includes a public option..."

Great point. I wish more people understood the legislative process. Points like this can't be over-emphasized.

Actually, I think it matters more. Once the filibuster is stopped, only 51 votes are needed. We are thus a long, long way from "reconciliation."

By the way, one strategy going forward might be to make the Repubs actually filibuster (by talking) for a while. As we have seen throughout August, when the Repubs have to talk, they get all tangled up in their lies, contradictions, hypocrisies, craziness, threats, etc., etc. As you conclude an earlier post, "It's as if the whole party has gone stark raving mad." Wouldn't hurt to let that madness become even more evident.

Posted by: CMcC on September 2, 2009 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

September 3, 2009

No matter where "We" go with he said she said or the cost, or that this plan for healthcare is socialism, the fact is, Obama has to take hold of the reigns and perform the task of giving "We" Americans the Change he promised and the change "We" so desperately need..If he does not stand up to those who oppose him he sends out a signal that he stands for nothing. You cannot compromise until you have only a watered down bill left.

I disagree that any bill is better then none.. It's like our ineffectual laws. Open to interpretation...So poorly written are many of our laws that the enemy, who is usually the author, gets exactly what they need to keep the status quo going!

"We" American's, especially the disabled and chronically ill, have no time left to play catch up! Death does not open the door to come back to life because "We" finally may get it right in 2012. A broken back not attended to in a timely manner leads to other ailments which can cause many medical problems.. The pain and suffering will not be eased but certainly made worse as the players will, by hook or crook, get their pound of flesh, leaving ours, Flesh that is, to weather and die and soon to be forgotten..

If Obama cannot lead with the high percentage of American's behind him then he will not lead US in any of the other dire areas of concern...War! Environment! Crooked FDA! Deadly drugs! Torture memos, Fat cats in the Military complex! And so on... Who are those who say the public option is off the table? Are they willing to give up their healthcare which is a public option..?

We'll consider giving up the public option if Congress does. Yes, far be it from us to insist they be forced to take something denied the rest of us! "We" wouldn't want to make them suffer under the public option. And, if it cost too much, all the better that they give it up for the good of the country and our blood letting economy.

After all, we do have to support two wars, don't "We"..Hum.. Do We? What good is being kept safe from an invisible enemy, some of our making, if we are too ill to give a hoot while at the same time being bastardized by our own leadership!

Hey "We" American's are a proud lot. We'll bite the bullet if they, the Congress, will. And while we're at it what about those raises the Congress so likes to give themselves. What about a cap? Hey, we'll work a compromise, Obama. What about you offering the Congress a compromise which says they too have to take some knocks like the rest of US! What about a reduction of their wages? Hell many Americans were laid off or cannot find a job due to poor leadership.. NAFTA certainly did little for the American economy but it sure filled the pockets of corporations and their ilk.

And what about those under the table perks? There's something fishy about this scam..Seems to me you have some fire power here, there, everywhere, don't you think? American's are sick of the Bait and Switch, cronyism, nepotism, that's becoming the norm in Washington and around the nation. How much do you, who caused the collapse of our economy, believe we should take? Even a rubber band will break if you stretch it too far for too long!

"We" the American People opt for the Public option and or Single Payer. Those who are against it QUIT!!!!!!! "We" American's will be more then happy to show you the door! And sound the alarm! "You had better hope that the perks pay off because you will not see a re-election in these United States, ever again! America has had enough! We are not second hand citizens but you, the legislative body, are proving to be "BANANA REPUBLIC" leaders...


Posted by: Barbara Williams on September 3, 2009 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you for the entertaining read! Alright playtime is over and back to my duties, time to say goodbye to The Washington Monthly.

Posted by: Car Hire Malaga Airport on February 4, 2011 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK
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