Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 5, 2009

WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE.... The NYT noted over the weekend that senior Senate Democrats are "increasingly confident" that health care reform really will pass this fall. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who hasn't exactly been helpful this year, said, "I am Scandinavian, and we don't like to overstate anything. But I have a solid feeling about the direction of events."

What's driving the optimism? According to a report in Roll Call, moderate Dems appear less likely to break ranks on the signature domestic issue of their party.

Moderate Senate Democrats face increasing pressure to support a health care bill that includes a public insurance option, and many appear prepared to fall in line with Democratic leaders -- provided they are presented with a bill that can withstand public scrutiny in their home states.

Centrists are adamant that any bill they support must be deficit-neutral. But they are also loath to cross President Barack Obama by causing a health care bill to fail this year. [...]

To seal the endorsement of moderates, Democratic leaders are working to wrap the controversial elements of reform in a politically attractive message to the centrists' conservative-leaning constituents. That could include the addition of provisions aimed directly at problems or issues in each Senator's state, such as tweaks to state funding formulas for federal programs, aides said.

We're looking, in other words, at the usual kind of horse-trading that makes the legislative process function.

The key, however, still isn't lining up 60 votes for reform -- it's lining up 60 votes to overcome GOP obstructionism. The Roll Call piece added, "At a minimum, leaders have asked all 60 Democrats to allow them to bring a health care bill to the floor in order to make sure Republicans cannot filibuster it."

In related news, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC this morning that a public option has between 54 and 56 votes in the Senate. "I'm talking to some of the moderates," Schumer said, "and they're very open to it."

If that count is right -- and it's a higher number than I usually hear -- the key would be to find four to six Democrats who oppose the public option to nevertheless let their colleagues vote up or down on the bill.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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the key would be to find four to six Democrats who oppose the public option to nevertheless let their colleagues vote up or down on the bill.

I wouldn't bet they'll find one.

Posted by: Steve M. on October 5, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

"Leaders have asked all 60 Democrats to allow them to bring a health care bill to the floor"

allow them to bring it to the floor ??!!!!!???????

whatever happened to - The president wants this vote, and you damn well will vote to let this get to the floor, you sanctimonious gas bag from some puny state .... or there will be hell to pay when it comes time for earmarks and goodies ....


Posted by: bigwisc on October 5, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

As everyone keeps pointing out. Let the 'moderate' and 'blue-dogs' vote on the bill however they want to. What must be required is for all the members of the majority cacus to stand united on bringing a bill to the floor. Any member of the cacus that votes against a cloture vote must be have the committee seats taken away.

This idiotic counter-productive and never meant to be 'super-majority' BS needs to stop.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 5, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

meanwhile, sez jane hamsher over at firedoglake, the public option is dog shit on the bottom of the Dim Party's clown shoe and they're wantin' someone to make it go away...

now is not the time to get completely hopey changey kumbaya, my lord -- the fight for health care is still, you know, a fight...

Posted by: neill on October 5, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

"We're looking, in other words, at the usual kind of horse-trading that makes the legislative process function."

Gee, after 9 months in office they reach that conclusion...? Lyndon Johnson is rolling in his grave.

Posted by: Frak on October 5, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

All Hamsher et al know is how to bitch and complain. At one point the public option wasn't even going to be in the final bill. Right now it is the time to continue to fight for a robust PO where the insurance cannot use it as a dumping ground to get rid of their sickest and poorest customers.

Posted by: Micheline on October 5, 2009 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

My strong suspicion: the problem will be Lieberman. And this (combined with any move by Obama to limit or redefine the war in Afghanistan) may be the moment he officially becomes a Republican.

Posted by: bcamarda on October 5, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Where's my "What Would LBJ Do" bumper sticker?

Posted by: DAY on October 5, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

At least two branches are cancerous...

Polls show American people want the public option.
But the Senate,the House and the Executive Branch are too diseased to give it to us.

Frank Rich:

The administration’s legislative deals with the pharmaceutical companies were made in back rooms. Business Week reported in early August that the UnitedHealth Group and its fellow insurance giants had already quietly rounded up moderate Democrats in the House to block any public health care option that would compete with them for business. UnitedHealth’s hired Beltway gunslingers include both Elmendorf Strategies and Daschle, a public supporter of the public option who nonetheless does some of his “wink, wink” counseling for UnitedHealth. The company’s in-house lobbyist is a former chief of staff to Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader. Gephardt consults there too.
But it’s not as if the Republicans now have the public’s back. DeLay may be reduced these days to violating public taste rather than the public trust on “Dancing With the Stars,” but back on Capitol Hill, his successors keep the K Street faith. In their campaign to kill the public option, G.O.P. leaders often cite data from the Lewin Group, a research company, which has projected that 88 million Americans might quit their private insurance plans if given a government alternative. (The Congressional Budget Office puts the figure at the far less earthshaking 10 to 11 million.) Lewin, which repeatedly insists it’s still a nonpartisan outfit, was actually bought by a subsidiary of UnitedHealth in 2007. The Huffington Post reported in August that John Boehner and Eric Cantor — who use Lewin’s findings to scare voters about a “government takeover” of health care — are big recipients of UnitedHealth campaign cash

Read it all.
American democracy is diseased...
Riddled with cancer...

Posted by: koreyel on October 5, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Excuse me, but if it wasn't for Hamsher, et al, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Act Blue is the one organization who assembled the progressive coalition to pledge that they would not vote for a bill without a robust public option. They've also functioned as a conduit for people to express their appreciation and support to a wide variety of representatives and senators who are acting in the public's self-interest.

A guy from the DNC called me a few weeks for $$, and I told him that the only people who were getting my money were those actually doing something to bring about the change I feel is required to fix the country (and that isn't the DNC at this point). HE TOTALLY AGREED WITH ME.

It's time to bring the fucking wrath of god down on these "moderate" dems. You fucking cross that line, don't bother coming back because we're going to primary your sorry ass.

Posted by: bdop4 on October 5, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: bcamarda"

You are underestimating Lieberman's giant ego! He wants to win another term in the senate and possibly even win a Democratic primary unapposed this time. Yet he comes up for election in 2012 which isn't looking so very far away right now.

He does NOT want to be the senator that torpedoed an up or down vote in the U.S. Senate on the President's health care plan. CT is NOT North Dakota and he cannot run to the right anymore.

He will certainly be primaried again if he sinks the health care bill. So, all he has to do is vote to cut off filibuster and then vote however he wants on the actual bill.

NElson and Conrad are the real problems. Neither one has to fear any left-wing opposition in their states, and moderates in those rural states are opposed to health care reform because it will increase the "deficit."

Of course, they never cared about he deficit during Republican administrations when all the TV gas-bags just shrugged when Dick Cheney said "Ronald Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

You see the bit about the President negotiating with these Senators about rural state health care reimbursement rates? That's a direct bribe to Nelson and Conrad. They can now go back and tell their constituents that they secured "equal pay" for North Dakota health care workers (despite the fact that prices in that backwards state are much lower than in CA for example).

Will the bribe be enough? Who knows?

Obama has already lost 3/4 of the battle by giving in to conservatives screaming about the bill being "deficit neutral".

Screw them! When did they ever worry about the budget when passing Bush's enormous tax giveaways to the rich or wasting $1 trillion on Iraq? That they swallowed without a peep!

But, spending money on the middle class health care? *Gasp!* We can't do that! That's SOCIALISM!

(Only when you spend money bailing out the top 1% is it NOT Socialism apparently).

Posted by: Cugel on October 5, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

as a registered dimocrat since noah's flood, i am so usta the vertigo -- the ebb and flow -- of what koreyel sez and what bdop4 sez.

aint it a shame...

Posted by: neill on October 5, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Is it possible that, at long last, the Democratic leadership is doing its job? That they've figured out that the voters aren't actually represented by the talking heads and snarling faces they see on their TeeVees?

Schumer, at least, has learned the fundamental political lesson of always being positive for the TV cameras.

Posted by: Midland on October 5, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

From the desk of Evan Bayh:

Despite the pressures from Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership, I shall continue to act according to the best interests of my constituents. My constituents, the pharmacy and health care industries, perceive that health care reform is not in their best interests. Additionally, my number one constituent (my wife), has concluded that health care reform would negatively impact her $1 Million plus a year income as a professional board of directors member for health care, pharmacology, and biotech firms.

It would not be in the best interests of constituents to allow a health care reform vote to take place. Therefore, I must cede to the needs of my constituents and join the well meaning, patriotic Republicans in their filibuster of this horrible socialistic legislation.

As always, as a real American, taking care of number one.

Posted by: Evan 'I wish he would go' Bayh on October 5, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Suggestion to roll-call: Stop calling corporatist/conservative Democrats 'moderate'.

Posted by: Ohioan on October 5, 2009 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Obama and the Dems are setting themselves up to lose in 2010/2012 if they cannot enact real reform, and after dumping single payer, only a strong public option is real reform. A weak public option with mandated coverage is nothing but another massive gift, just like the Wall St bailout, to the people that have wrecked this country.

Polls continue to show significant majority support for real health care reform. By Obamas and the Dems actions, America will be able to judge if the Dems represent the American people or if they have been bought by rich people. The only consolation prize for a Dem party co-oped by the rich is that the anti-American Blue Dogs will get voted out first.

Posted by: Glen on October 5, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

They should pass a strong public option through reconciliation with 51 votes.

Not a weak public option even Olympia Snowe would vote for with 60 votes.

Posted by: Eric Jaffa on October 5, 2009 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Where's my "What Would LBJ Do" bumper sticker?"

Oooh! Ooooh! I found mine. The small print reads: Expand an inherited, ruinous, and murderous overseas war, thereby fatally endangering my domestic agenda.

Hmmm... Seems Obama found his as well.

Posted by: Rojo on October 5, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with Eric J.
When this passes, Obama will gain back any political capital that he has lost and the dems in Congress will too, which is going to be so sweet to beat the republicans over the head with. No wonder they are fighting so hard to stop this at all costs. This will save big majorities in both houses next November.

Posted by: Patrick on October 5, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

We really need to go back to the days when a filibuster required senators to actually, you know, filibuster.

I don't see how the voters are served by senators being able to completely sell out to special interests without creating any embarassing footage on c-span.

Posted by: Other Patrick on October 5, 2009 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

VA Gov. Tim Kaine told me at a rally yesterday, he's committed to the public option. As DNC Chair, I suppose that counts for something but I don't know how much influence he actually has.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ ♫ on October 5, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

don't tell me we might move away from the Big Stupid:

moderate dems: 'I'm fiscally conservative so any health care bill must not have the only thing that truly might contain costs: a "robust" public option. (just call me republican - kings of all stupid)'

Posted by: pluege on October 5, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK



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