The White House had to go outside the beltway to find someone to print a story about the President calling Senators and speaking positively about a public option. It's great that he said good things to Maria Cantwell, who already supports a public option. Ben Nelson too (though he doesn't say that Democrats like Nelson shouldn't side with Republicans and filibuster a bill, the only Nelson vote that will matter).
This morning's story in the Hill is probably more on the mark:
"President Obama clearly articulated his blueprint in his speech, and everyone knows Finance has the bulk of the bill that reflects that blueprint," the source said. "Everyone, including the White House, knows the Finance bill is the only bill that's paid for and can pass. In short, the White House wants a win, and using the bulk of the Baucus bill is the playbook to get the 'W.' "
It doesn't make any sense -- Harkin says there are 54-57 votes for a public option. That's a clear majority. And it would certainly pass the House. No, the only reason to pass a bill without a public option is if the White House doesn't want one. But who is going to let the public know? Who is going to make the announcement that there will be no public option? Who's going to take that political hit?
The White House doesn't have the stomach for it. They want someone else to take the hit. Maybe Harry Reid? Um...no:
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Having deferred the issue to Baucus this summer, Reid signaled on Thursday that he is prepared to join Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who both pushed a public option amendment that failed in a committee vote last Tuesday.
There are certainly Democrats in the Senate who have said that they won't support a public option, but so far nobody has stepped forward to say they'll join a Republican filibuster to stop it. Nobody wants that hot potato alone.
But they have to do something, because if a public option winds up in the Senate bill, it's going to be damn impossible to get out of there.
So the best model, the safest model (relatively speaking) is one of distributed responsibility. Some group (say, a "gang") stepping forward to announce that they have arrived at an agreement that everyone can live with, some abomination that makes the insurance companies happy and has some code language in there for "triggers." They'll present it as a "solution," and won't mention that the "problem" only exists because they're willing to join with the GOP in a filibuster but won't say so. Then nobody will point out the obvious -- that anyone who is willing to do this should lose their gavels immediately. That's how we'll know everyone is on board, despite their angry rhetoric.
That camera hog Lieberman has been awfully quiet lately. Wonder if the President has been calling him and twisting his arm?