The 'Public Option': Democrats' Scam Becomes More Transparent

Published on
by
Salon

The 'Public Option': Democrats' Scam Becomes More Transparent

by
Glenn Greenwald

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote
about
what seemed to be a glaring (and quite typical) scam
perpetrated by Congressional Democrats:  all year long, they insisted
that the White House and a majority
of Democratic Senators
vigorously supported a public option, but
the only thing oh-so-unfortunately preventing its enactment was the
filibuster:  sadly, we have 50 but not 60 votes for it, they
insisted.  Democratic pundits used that claim to push for "filibuster
reform," arguing that if only majority rule were required in the Senate,
then the noble Democrats would be able to deliver all sorts of
wonderful progressive reforms that they were truly eager to enact but
which the evil filibuster now prevents.  In response, advocates of the
public option kept
arguing
that the public option could be accomplished by
reconciliation -- where only 50 votes, not 60, would be required -- but
Obama loyalists scorned
that reconciliation proposal
, insisting (at least before the Senate
passed a bill with 60 votes) that using reconciliation was Unserious,
naive, procedurally impossible, and politically disastrous.

But all those claims were put to the test -- all those bluffs were
called -- once the White House decided that it had
to use reconciliation
to pass a final health care reform bill. 
That meant that any changes to the Senate bill (which had passed with 60
votes) -- including the addition of the public option -- would only
require 50 votes, which Democrats assured progressives all year long
that they had.  Great news for the public option, right?  Wrong.  As
soon as it actually became possible to pass it, the 50 votes magically
vanished.  Senate Democrats (and the White House) were willing to
pretend they supported a public option only as long as it was impossible
to pass it.  Once reconciliation gave them the opportunity they claimed
all year long they needed -- a "majority rule" system -- they began concocting
ways to ensure that it lacked 50 votes
.

All of that was bad enough, but now the scam is getting even more
extreme, more transparent.  Faced with the dilemma of how they could
possibly justify their year-long claimed support for the public option
only now to fail to enact it, more and more Democratic Senators were
pressured into signing a letter supporting the enactment of the public
option through reconciliation; that
number is now above 40
, and is rapidly approaching 50.  In other
words, there is a serious possibility that the Senate might enact a
public option if there is a vote on it, because it's very difficult for
these Senators to vote "No" after pretending all year long -- on the
record -- that they supported it.  In fact, The Huffington Post's
Ryan Grim yesterday
wrote
:  "the votes appear to exist to include a public
option. It's only a matter of will
."

The one last hope for Senate Democratic leaders was to avoid a vote
altogether on the public option, thereby relieving Senators of having
to take a position and being exposed.  But that trick would require the
cooperation of all Senators -- any one Senator can introduce a public
option amendment during the reconciliation and force a vote -- and it
now seems that Bernie Sanders, to his great credit, is
refusing to go along with the Democrats' sham and will do exactly that

ignore the wishes of the Senate leadership and force a roll call vote
on the public option.

So now what is to be done?  They only need 50 votes, so they can't
use the filibuster excuse.  They don't seem able to prevent a vote, as
they tried to do, because Sanders will force one.  And it seems there
aren't enough Senate Democrats willing to vote against the public option
after publicly saying all year long they supported it, which means it
might get 50 votes if a roll call vote is held.  So what is the Senate
Democratic leadership now doing?  They're
whipping against the public option
, which they pretended
all year along to so vigorously support:

 

Senate Democratic leaders are concerned about the amount of
mischief their own Members could create if or when a health care
reconciliation bill comes up for debate. And sources said some supporters
of creating a public insurance option are privately worried that they
will be asked to vote against
the idea during debate on the
bill, which could occur before March 26.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged Wednesday
that liberals may be asked to oppose any amendment, including one
creating a public option
, to ensure a smooth ride for the bill.
"We have to tell people, 'You just have to swallow hard' and say that
putting an amendment on this is either going to stop it or slow it down,
and we just can't let it happen," Durbin, who supports a public option,
told reporters.

If -- as they claimed all year long -- a majority of Congressional
Democrats and the White House all support a public option, why would
they possibly whip against it, and ensure its rejection, at exactly the
moment when it finally became possible to pass it?   If majorities of
the House and Senate support it, as does the White House, how could the
inclusion of a public option possibly jeopardize passage of the bill?

I've argued
since August
that the evidence was clear that the White House had
privately negotiated away the public option and didn't want it, even as
the President claimed publicly (and repeatedly) that he did.  And while I
support the concept of "filibuster reform" in theory, it's long seemed
clear that it would actually accomplish little, because the 60-vote rule
does not actually impede anything.  Rather, it is the excuse Democrats
fraudulently invoke, using what I called
the Rotating Villain tactic
 (it's now Durbin's turn), to refuse to
pass what they claim they support but are politically afraid to pass, or
which they actually oppose (sorry, we'd so love to do this, but
gosh darn it, we just can't get 60 votes
).  If only 50 votes were
required, they'd just find ways to ensure they lacked 50.  Both of those
are merely theories insusceptible to conclusive proof, but if I had the
power to create the most compelling evidence for those theories that I
could dream up, it would be hard to surpass what Democrats are doing now
with regard to the public option.  They're actually whipping against
the public option.  Could this sham be any more transparent?

 

UPDATE:  One related point:  when I was on Morning
Joe
several weeks ago, I argued this point -- why aren't Democrats
including the public option in the reconciliation package given that
they have the 50 votes in favor of the public option -- and, in
response, Chuck Todd recited White House spin and DC conventional wisdom
(needless to say) by insisting that they do not have the votes to pass
the public option.  If that's true -- if they lack the votes to pass the
public option through reconciliation? -- why is Dick Durbin now
whipping against it, telling Senators -- in his own words -- "You just
have to swallow hard' and say that putting an amendment on this is
either going to stop it or slow it down, and we just can't let it
happen"?

No discussion of the public option is complete without noting how
much the private health insurance industry despises it; the last thing
they want, of course, is the beginning of real competition and choice.

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