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Public Option, More Votes Than Will?

Monday, 15 March 2010 19:50
File photo, Sen. Barack Obama with Sen. Claire McCaskill, 01/29/08. (photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

File photo, Sen. Barack Obama with Sen. Claire McCaskill, 01/29/08. (photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Reader Supported News | Perspective

s advocates for the public option close in on the 51 votes needed in the Senate to pass a Public Option, the real question is: Does the Democratic leadership have the stomach to do the right thing? Over the weekend, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy For America and CREDO action announced on their web page,, that there are likely 51 votes in the Senate for a public option, if the House sends it to the Senate in the reconciliation bill.

According to the site, 24 Senators have signed a letter to Harry Reid calling for the public option, 19 have made public statements in support, four have made statements on video, and four are extremely likely based on previous support for the public option, and Senate leadership.

When I read down the list of 43 Senators that are on the record, I agree they are locks to vote for a public option. So let's take a closer look at the other eight votes.

Four of the votes are in videos. After watching the video of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), I can only say that I am optimistic, however, she also said in the clip that she can guarantee the House will not pass a public option. I also recall McCaskill telling reporters back in August that she was glad that Obama was putting "handcuffs" on the public option. I guess if she is wrong, and the House does send the public option to the Senate in reconciliation, that she will probably do the right thing and vote yes, but she is not a guaranteed vote yet.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) is also listed as supporting a public option through reconciliation in video. He should be listed as likely to do so based on past support as well. Dodd is a lock, so that takes us to 44. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), again, do we really need to ask? Does anyone in his or her right mind think Senator Harkin would vote no on a public option? I'd bet my house he would vote for single payer.

That brings us to Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska). His position is the key for moderates. He says he will vote for a good reconciliation bill with or without a public option. He doesn't care either way, according to the video cited on So, with Harkin and Begich, we are up to 46. I'm still not counting Senator McCaskill as a done deal, as I explained earlier.

That leaves us with Baucus, Byrd, Warner and Webb. They are the four they are counting as likely, and I would have to agree with them on Baucus and Byrd. I am not so sure about Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Virginia), and reading the reasons they are now counting them as likely, I would have to say that a lot has changed since then.

Sen. Jim Webb was an early proponent of the public option, but hasn't shown visible support in a long time. Last August Sen. Mark Warner said he wouldn't vote against a bill that had a public option in it. That is a great sign, but I would rather hear him say that again like Senator Begich did before I count him.

So, if we add Senator Byrd (D-West Virginia) and Senator Baucus (D-Montana), then we are at 48 votes, with three leaning yes.

Which brings us back to the real question. Does the Democratic leadership want a public option?

If President Obama came out tomorrow and called on the House and Senate to pass the public option through reconciliation, McCaskill, Warner and Webb would be on board, giving the Democrats 51 votes in the Senate.

In poll after poll the American people support a public option. So what is the holdup? Obama and Pelosi say the votes are not there in the Senate. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said last week that if the House sent them a reconciliation bill with the public option in it he would aggressively whip the votes needed. The votes are there, so the answer has to be that the leadership doesn't want a public option.

Are they convinced that a public option would hurt them at the polls in November? What will hurt the Democrats in November is continuing to buckle to Republican pressure. Why would centrist voters want to support the Party that can't get anything done because they refuse to fight for what they believe in?

There will be no Republican votes for health care reform, so why aren't the Democrats pushing for the strongest bill they can pass? The real mess is getting the votes needed in the House, after that is cleared up Nancy Pelosi needs to send the strongest reconciliation measure she can to the Senate, and by all accounts the votes are there for her to send a public option.

Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador's slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush's first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.

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+2 # Dave M 2010-03-15 21:22
The leadership clearly does NOT want the public option. Why? To vote for a public option would mean sacrificing too much in campaign contributions (to the Democratic Party in general as well as to individual Democratic politicians). This is the legacy of Terry McAuliffe.
+3 # Guest 2010-03-15 23:54
Obama and the White House made a deal with AHIP not to let the bill be "too far to the left". And that is regardless if a progressive idea like the public optio. Has been scored by the CBO as helping control cost, inject competition and lower premiums. And also regardless the public option has public support. Obama is sacrificing what is right and what works for his infatuation with Clinton's Third Way.
0 # Guest 2010-03-16 05:57
The CBO reports notwithstanding , I see no effective cost control, no effective competition, and higher premiums already, promised (by my insurer Dubbl-Kross) to rise again and/or provide less coverage next year. Can anyone explain how the federal government is going to save enough money (on WHAT, if not by further starving Medicare?) to subsidize more than half the population at new, higher rates? If not, why do we want this bill? The DLC put themselves in this coffin. How much are we going to pay, now and in the future to save their sorry asses?
+2 # Guest 2010-03-16 08:36
It is obvious that the Democrats do not want to give anything to the people by way of health care.

If they did want it, we would have been discussing single payer health care as a serious option. Was it discussed. No.

Neither was another serious opportunity for cost containment. Why did we hear absolutely nothing on public non-profit health insurers? Would have had an instantaneous impact on costs, and as a public organization, we could have controlled things like death panels, payment caps, pre-existing conditions, higher costs for single mothers, and on and on.

Instead, we have a pair of weak kneed bills that do nothing to contain costs, but give away billions more of the average citizen's money in another fantastic transfer of our 'wealth' to the wealthy.

It is obvious that the Democrats are just toying with us again, giving us more of their bait and switch garbage.

Get rid of both parties and start fresh.
+2 # Guest 2010-03-16 09:53
The insurance companies are scrambling to raise premiums now, knowing that once a public option passes Congress and is signed into law by Obama, there will be real competition, by the US Government, to lower those same premiums. Significantly, that is.

The insurance companies are fighting health-care reform and expansion, tooth and nail. Why? Their chief executives and private owners, in the end, will have to forfeit $Billions in profits.

The Republicans are afraid of reform because if the public option passes, they will get the blame by those same insurance companies who will no longer support the "weakened" GOP candidates.

The insurance companies will then develop new types of coverage, at reasonable cost, thereby lowering profits while benefiting everyone.

Greed always ends up screwing itself
0 # Guest 2010-03-16 13:39
I have always been in favor of extending Medicare, or something like it to everyone.Instea d we have a bill that takes away some features of Medicare from retired older people, and guarantees insurance companies more business by forcing people to buy health care insurance. Or penalizing them in their taxes if they don't. Is this Big Brother or what? Is that even constitutional?
0 # Guest 2010-05-04 11:04
Quoting AB:
I have always been in favor of extending Medicare, or something like it to everyone.Instead we have a bill that takes away some features of Medicare from retired older people, and guarantees insurance companies more business by forcing people to buy health care insurance. Or penalizing them in their taxes if they don't. Is this Big Brother or what? Is that even constitutional?

Nothing the government is doing is Constitutional now.

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