Major progressive organizations see a golden opportunity to
resurrect the public option, and are preparing a campaign, which will
include television ads in Nevada, to pressure Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid to get on board.
As I've noted a number of times, the public option will not be in
the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill, but it can re-emerge
at three key points in the legislative process. Among those, one of the
most important is the next step, when Reid merges the Finance bill with
a more liberal proposal from the Senate HELP Committee. If he adopts
the latter panel's public option, it would dramatically alter the
nature of the legislative battle, shifting the onus from liberals, who
have been doggedly fighting to include the public option in the Senate
bill, on to conservative Democrats, who would have to decide whether
their opposition to the popular measure is so strong that they'd be
willing to join the GOP in a health care filibuster and tank the entire
Such a move would likely alienate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the
only Republican working with Democrats on health care reform, and
require Democratic leaders, including Reid and President Obama to make
sure all 60 Democrats stand united when Republicans try to block the
bill--a tall order, and one Reid doesn't seem prepared to meet.
"If Harry Reid does not have the leadership skills to get 60 votes
for cloture and give a Democratic president an up-or-down vote on
health care, progressives will help defeat him in 2010, even if that
means Republicans take that seat," said the head of one progressive
organization, who's still working out the detail of the campaign.
"There is no use for Reid's vote if 60 Democratic votes means nothing
on cloture, and no use for Reid's leadership if his leadership is so
That might not be such a troubling threat if Reid, who's up for re-election in 2010, wasn't suffering at the polls.
Leadership, which will work with the chairmen of both the Finance
and HELP committees, along with White House officials, when it cobbles
together the final bill, says its main concern is ensuring that any
bill that reaches the floor has 60 votes for cloture. And though that
would likely be easier in absence of a public option, conservative
Democrats and Republicans would still be able to have their say by
introducing an amendment to strip it from the bill. That amendment
would also likely require 60 votes, and would almost certainly fail.
But it would give skeptics a chance to go on the record.
A call to Reid's office for comment on the coming ads was not immediately returned.