10.27.2009

Hello Harry! Well, Hello Harry! It's So Nice to Have You Back Where You Belong. (UPDATED)

I was out most of the day yesterday, so never got a chance to blog about Harry Reid's decision to add the public option (with the so-called opt-out feature) to the Senate's version of the health care reform bill (and everyone's reaction to it).

First, I must admit I was rather surprised at this outcome.  Harry Reid has never been one of my favorite Democrats. I find him to be weak, rather boorish, especially when he's at a microphone explaining why this or that is being done, and not the most enthusiastic champion of Democrats core agenda.

That said, he really came through.  I just hope he's able to maintain this momentum going forward without letting the resident  naysayers and GOP sympathizers (Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu & Joe Lieberman) hold Democrats hostage.

Here's Harry announcing that the merged health care bill will include a public option that allows states to opt-out (full, 10-minute press conference via MSNBC).

Reid backs ‘opt out’ public option 

Oct. 26: Sen. Harry Reid says that the public option with an 'opt out' is the best way forward. Watch his news conference.
In short:
  • The merged bill will  include a opt-out public option, and that states will have a certain amount of time to opt out of the government plan if their state legislators so choose.
  • There will be NO bullshit "triggers" for a public option (he won't even be sending it to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring),  so screw Olympia Snowe, she's not the most important person on the planet.  He was "disappointed" the public option had "frightened" her, but that he hoped she would "come back."
  • He was no longer holding his breath for this so-called bipartisanship, and that he can count the moderates in the GOP on "two fingers."
  • He declared he was a "strong supporter" of the public option.which would be the best way to force competition among insurers and "to level the playing field."
  • And, the strange part, the one that most confused people, is that he also aid "there will be a co-op in this bill."
If you don't have time for the 10 minute presser, here an edited down version (via TPM):



Reactions:

I have mixed feelings about the White House's reaction.  There's a split in the progressive community about whether of not President Obama really wanted the final Senate Bill to include a public option, or was he more interested in getting ANY bill that included Olympia Snow so he can call it a bipartisan bill.

I believe it was the latter.

Obama might have been saying all the right things in public, but he never drew a line in the sand, his people were always out there, and behind the scenes, working to ensure Olympia's needs were met rather than fighting FOR the public option.  In fact, that's the best way to explain what I mean.  Obama PREFERRING the public option is VERY DIFFERENT than Obama FIGHTING FOR the public option (see here, here, here & here).

He NEVER fought to get the handful of Democratic obstructionists (max Baucus, Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu & Joe Lieberman) on board. Instead, he allowed this bastards to hold the rest of us hostage; leaving the majority of Senate Democrats to fight for it on their own (see here, here, here, here , here, here, here, here, here & here just to get a small taste of the battle he viewed as a spectator).

In fact, the White House/Obama was still doing it up until Reid's announcement.

And, some in the White House, continued to minimize, demean and cast aside those of use fighting for real change (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here & here).

Here's the initial White House statement Robert Gibbs put out just after Reid's announcement:

"The President congratulates Senator Reid and Chairmen Baucus and Dodd for their hard work on health insurance reform. Thanks to their efforts, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to solving this decades-old problem. And  while much work remains, the President is pleased that at the progress that Congress has made. He’s also pleased that the Senate has decided to include a public option for health coverage, in this case with an allowance for states to opt out. As he said to Congress and the nation in September, he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition."
Then Max Baucus jumped in:

"It is time to make our system work better for patients and providers, for small business owners and for our economy. It is time for health care reform. For more than a year, we've been working to meet the goals of reducing the growth of health care costs, improving quality and efficiency and expanding coverage. There are a tremendous number of complicated issues that go into reform and the public option is certainly one of them. I included a public option in the health reform blueprint I released nearly one year ago, and continue to support any provision, including a public option, that will ensure choice and competition and get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. Success should be our threshold and I am going to fight hard for the 60 votes we need to meet that goal this year."
(my emphasis)
Sen. Max Baucus' statement absurd in that he acts as if he wasn't standing in the way (see here, here, here, here & here) of the public option this entire time (see here, here, here, here & here).  It's almost as if he's trying to take credit for Harry Reid's deicision to ensure the Public Option, sans triggers, was in in the bill.

In the end, his committee had no public option and as it turned out, he was extremely proud (see here, here, here, here & here).

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly's Political Animal was thinking along the same line and said this about Baucus' statement (via America Blog):
Perhaps more interesting was the reaction from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who has been a public option detractor.

[snip]

What's fascinating about this is that Baucus was reportedly fighting tooth and nail to keep the public option out of the merged bill. This statement suggests he's on board with Reid's bill, and almost seems to be trying to take some credit for it.
Here's Sen. Christopher Dodd, via e-mail:

"I fought for a strong public option – in the HELP Committee and in this merger process – because it is the best way to keep costs low and insurance companies honest," said Dodd.  "Majority Leader Reid has made a bold and right choice to endorse the HELP Committee public option, along with a provision allowing states to opt out.  At its core, health care reform is about making insurance more stable and affordable for those who have it, and available to those who don’t, while improving quality and lowering costs.  I believe that the public option is a key component to successful reform, and I will continue to lead the fight for it on the Senate floor."
The above statements  from Gibbs, Baucus & Dodd came via DKos' mcjoan.

Sen. Whip Dick Durbin, told HuffPo's Ryan Grim that, "Progressives Forced Our Hand On Public Option"
Democratic leaders were forced to include a national public health insurance option as part of health care reform by progressive Democratic senators who refused to support anything less, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Monday.

[snip]

For many years, it's been centrist and conservative-leaning senators who have been scoring legislative victories by digging in their heels, so this represented a quite dramatic turnabout. It is difficult to remember the last time that progressives won a legislative victory by laying down firm demands and sticking to them. In the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has found its feet, too, and is locked in a final battle with conservative Democrats over the shape of a public option.

[snip]

But Reid and the leadership faced this basic math: There is only one Snowe and there are 60 members of the Democratic caucus. If just a few Democrats abandoned the bill, it would fall short even with Snowe's support.

"It's a zero-sum situation," said Durbin, who is in charge of counting votes in the Senate. "If we thought that just putting the trigger in meant that we'd end with 61 votes," he explained, then that's what leadership would have done.

"But there were some [senators] that felt that that just didn't go far enough moving toward a public option," said Durbin, who is himself a backer.

read more...
Senator Charles Schumer explains how this all came about:

Via  TPM's Brian Beutler:

This evening I spoke with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who was in that infamous Thursday night meeting with President Obama and other Senate leaders--and who has been one of the most persistent advocates of a public option on Capitol Hill. As Schumer explains it, the disagreement between the White House and Senate wasn't substantive so much as it was tactical: The White House had its doubts that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could really get 60 votes for a public option with an opt out for states.

"The President listened very carefully," Schumer said in an interview moments ago. "He wanted to make sure that the strategy upon which we were embarking had the ability to carry through."

[snip]

"I think substantively the White House probably preferred a stronger public option than a trigger," Schumer said. "We talked about this for a while in leadership and the White House wanted to hear our thoughts--and when they heard them they thought that this was the right strategy to get our caucus together."

Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the President stands behind Reid as he builds support for the public plan.
"A lot of people around here have faith in Harry Reid's ability to count votes," Schumer told me.

Does that mean that triggers are dead? Schumer wouldn't characterize things that way, but he did note that, as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggested, the move risked alienating many in the caucus.

"I think that, to many many people in the caucus...the trigger was never very attractive. I think it was Jay Rockefeller that said whenever you have the trigger, it never goes into effect," Schumer said.

read more...
Here's poor Olympia Snowe's statement (also via TPM):

"I am deeply disappointed with the Majority Leader's decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation," Snowe said in a statement. "I still believe that a fallback, safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate."
read Brian Beutler's take on wht that statement might mean...

More to come...........


I'm back now and I was going to insert all the rethug reactions in here but than decided who really gives a fuck what the neanderthals really think?

Except, this popped up  and I just had to. I also posted on it's own:  

What a low-life, lying scumbag Sen. Lieberman is

In 2006, Joe Lieberman pledges his support for universal health insurance in 2006 campaign:



Harry Reid went out on a limb for this fucker when nearly the entire the Democratic Party, Senators included, want to boot him from all chairmanship positions, not just for campaign the republican candidate for president, but for campaigning again Barack Obama is the most vile and uncivilized way.

Remember when Senate Majority "Leader" Harry Reid came to Holy Joe Lieberman's defense when the Democratic based was demanding Lieberman be stripped of his committee chairmanships for not just campaigning for John McCain but against Barack Obama in the most vile way a Democrat could against another Democrats (via CNN)?:
"Joe Lieberman is not some right-wing nutcase," he said. "Joe Lieberman is one of the most progressive people ever to come from the state of Connecticut." 
read more...
Well, Harry. Joe Lieberman just said he'll filibuster the Democrats health care plan:
"We're trying to do too much at once," Lieberman said. "To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. I don't think we need it now."
Lieberman added that he'd vote against a public option plan "even with an opt-out because it still creates a whole new government entitlement program for which taxpayers will be on the line."

His comments confirmed that Reid is short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill out of the Senate, even after Reid included the opt-out provision. Several other moderate Democrats expressed skepticism at the proposal as well, but most of the wavering Democratic senators did not go as far as Lieberman Tuesday, saying they were waiting to see the details.

Lieberman did say he's "strongly inclined" to vote to proceed to the debate, but that he'll ultimately vote to block a floor vote on the bill if it isn't changed first.

"I've told Sen. Reid that if the bill stays as it is now I will vote against cloture," he said.
read more...
I want to know what are Dems going to do about this bastard? 

LIEBERMAN UPDATE I:  Joe Lieberman's wife worked for a health care/pharmaceutical lobbyist
From Joe Conason (via John Aravosis):


Among Hill & Knowlton's clients when Mrs. Lieberman signed on with the firm last year was GlaxoSmithKline, the huge British-based drug company that makes vaccines along with many other drugs. As I noted in July, Sen. Lieberman introduced a bill in April 2005 (the month after his wife joined Hill & Knowlton) that would award billions of dollars in new "incentives" to companies like GlaxoSmithKline to persuade them to make more new vaccines. Under the legislation, known as Bioshield II, the cost to consumers and governments would be astronomical, but for Lieberman and his Republican cosponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the results would be worth every penny. Using the war on terror as their ideological backdrop, the pharma-friendly senators sought to win patent extensions on products that have nothing to do with preparations against terrorist attack or natural disaster.
As the New Haven Register, Lieberman's hometown newspaper, noted in an editorial headlined "Lieberman Crafts Drug Company Perk," that bill is even more generous to the pharmaceutical industry than a similar proposal by the Senate Republican leadership. "The government can offer incentives and guarantees for needed public health measures," it said. "But it should not write a blank check, as these bills do, to the pharmaceutical industry that has such a large cost to the public with what may be an uncertain or dubious return."

What the editorial didn't mention was that the Lieberman bill had also been written by Chuck Ludlam, a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist who then worked on the Connecticut senator's staff. From his office to his bedroom, Lieberman was totally surrounded by current and former employees of Big Pharma.
read more...
JOE LIEBERMAN UPDATE II:  Here's more of Joe's threat  statement (via TPM):
"I told Senator Reid that I'm strongly inclined--i haven't totally decided, but I'm strongly inclined--to vote to proceed to the health care debate, even though I don't support the bill that he's bringing together because it's important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill."

[snip]

Even Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) doesn't go that far. "I'm not going to make up my mind until I actually see the bill," he told reporters.
One of Lieberman's main objections to the health care bill is that it includes a public option, which he describes as a burden on taxpayers.

"I think a lot of people may think that the public option is free. It's not. It's going to cost the taxpayers and people who have health insurance now, and if it doesn't it's going to add terribly to the national debt...there's so much in this health reform legislation that is so good, that I think they're just putting an unnecessary burden on top of it by creating another Washington-based entitlement program."

read more from TPM...
Oh, and this doesn't mean he will do it. It just means he's throwing yet another public temper tantrum because he isn't getting his way.  I have a feeling he'll try to force Obama's hand when it comes to either sending more troops to Afghanistan or coming out more forcefully against Iran & in favor of Israel, using this threat over Democrats' heads.

Joe's working the refs.  He's the wort kind of politician.  He has not real moral center.

JOE LIEBERMAN UPDATE III:  DKos' gavodotcom has a nice roundup of the various, and numerous quotes he's given to the various beltway regulars.


JOE LIEBERMAN UPDATE IV:


Robert Gibbs had this to say, and surprisingly, I see a veiled threat in it:  there will be consequences doled out by voters (from TPM):
"I haven't seen the report from Senator Lieberman or why he's saying what he's saying," he said, citing polls showing support for health care. "And we know that if that doesn't happen, people say they'll be very disappointed by that, and we think people will make progress to ensure that this gets done."

Gibbs said President Obama hasn't been making specific calls yet but, "I'm sure we'll get involved in due time."

"The president is working to ensure we get this through," Gibbs said. "I think we've been working through these issues for many months and we will continue to do so to make progress. I think president has been pretty involved in this and as this works its way through we'll have more to do on it."

read more....
Harry Reid doesn't seem all that concerned, of course, he could just be trying to act nonchalant about it and be seething inside  But for now, it seems he doesn't consider Lieberman to be one of the main problems:
"Joe Lieberman is the least of Harry Reid's problems," Reid told reporters at his weekly press conference.
During a Q&A session with reporters, Reid offered a fairly spirited defense of Lieberman, signaling perhaps that he doesn't believe Lieberman will ultimately be an obstacle--or at least that he doesn't want to tip his hat: "I don't have anyone that I've worked harder with, have more respect for, in the Senate than Joe Lieberman. As you know, he's my friend. There are a lot of senators--Democrat and Republicans--who don't like [parts of this bill]... Sen. Lieberman will let us get on the bill, and he'll be involved in the amendment process."

Reid went on, "Some of you will recall one reason that we were able to solve the problem with the nuclear option is that I called Joe Lieberman to my office, and said Joe I want you to join the enemy and get us out of this deal."
read more...
In other words, Lieberman will fall in like when I say to fall in line.  The third person is a bit weird, but I like this new Harry "Lieberman means nothing" Reid.

Anywho.... one of the things I found most interesting in all the frantic blogging from yesterday, was these pieces showing how wrong the political and cable news pundiks were when it came to the public option.

Let me first say that I also thought it was going to be killed, by fellow Democrats fight against it in the Senate and by the inaction of President Obama to push more forcefully for it.  I certainly wasn't expecting Harry Reid to come through as he did.

That said, I by now means thought the public option was dead.  Unlike many, many, many beltway blowhard.
DKos's brooklynbadboy compiled a great inventory of quotes, all similar in their declarations that the public option was dead (here are some of my favoirtes):
Brad Blakeman:
The "public option" is dead, but birth has been given to the "co-op" by Senator Kent Conrad.
Newt Gingrich:
"I think the president has a real opportunity to fundamentally change the tone of his administration," Gingrich tells NRO. But, he says, "I think it takes deeper change than simply yes or no on the public option. Frankly, if he does come out against a public option — given what the Left and the ACLU have said — it would be a very significant moment, and we should not understate how significant that would be."
Alex Castellanos:
Well, the public option... it will still keep growing for a few days, but it's dead. It's not going to happen.
Gloria Borger:
I think it's pretty dead, Campbell. I think it's safe to say that right now it looks like it's a goner.

Bill O'Reilly:
The big federal insurance apparatus isn't going to happen.
Charles Krauthammer:
The wascally wabbit is dead. It doesn't have a chance.
Dana Perino:
I think what this signaled this weekend is that the public option is dead. It's not coming back.
Joe Klein:
Well, but the public plan was never going to be on the table.
read the full list of dopey comments....
He wasn't the only one compiling this kind of a list....

[...] in apparent widespread confusion as to how Congress actually works, the media has been pushing the "public option is dead" theme for so long, it's no wonder they're so astonished at today's news. Because it proves (yet again, I might add) that the media's credibility is really what should have been pronounced dead months ago, and not the public option.

A quick trip through Lexis/Nexis (searching on "public option is dead") proves this beyond any doubt. Republicans offered this up as a piece of "conventional wisdom," and the media swallowed the story hook, line, and sinker all summer long. While there were voices in the blogosphere's wilderness saying "there are bigger fights ahead, Baucus' committee is a minor skirmish," most of the mainstream media watched the hotheads yelling at town hall meetings, and took an enormous leap to reach the conclusion that the public option was deader than a doornail. Forgetting, I suppose, that a scattering of angry, vocal protesters are not who writes the actual legislation. Or something. At this point, it's hard to even fathom the depths of the media's distractibility on crucial issues facing our nation.
Many of Chris' finds are similar to that of DKos' brooklynbadboy, but these are several that stood out for me:
The Wall Street Journal was also quite convinced:
9/30/09 -- Wall Street Journal -- Greg Hitt
Bipartisan vote in Senate Finance Committee defeats proposal for government-run health insurance plan to help those who cannot get affordable insurance; defeat suggests so-called public option is dead in Senate, though it clings to life in House; public option could be revived if Obama administration weighs in strongly; alternative could be 'trigger' option that takes effect only if other steps fail to expand coverage and lower costs
The Washington Times agreed (note: the number five is apparently a "large number" to the folks a the Times):
9/30/09 -- Washington Times -- "Public Option Rejected Twice By Senate Panel; Democrats Defect In Large Numbers, Complicating Reform"
In a long-awaited fight that pitted Democrats against one another, liberal lawmakers failed twice Tuesday to insert a government-run health insurance program into the emerging Senate health care reform bill but vowed that the battle for a public option is far from over.
Republicans immediately hailed the Senate Finance Committee showdown votes as proof that the public option was dead.
From last week's Chris Matthews Show, here is the host:
10/18/09 -- NBC -- Chris Matthews Show
CHRIS MATTHEWS: OK. Let's take a look at the bottom line. We asked The Matthews Meter, 12 of our regulars, do the Democratic leaders who are pushing the public option now really deep down know that it's dead, that it can't be part of a solution that gets 60 votes, 218 in the House? Our meter's got a canny bunch here. Look, seven say the leaders already know there's not going to be a public option, five say they honestly still believe they can win it and get it part of this package.
In other words, Chris is not really asking whether the public option is dead or not, but he's actually asking "Do Democrats know that the public option's dead?"
Read more...
UPDATE on all those declarations that the public option was dead.  

Check out this mash up from Jed over at DKTV of all the people who said the public option was DOA:

......................

Ron Wyden lays down a gauntlet:

Sen. Ron Wyden promises to being a bill to the floor of the Senate when debate commences over the health bill that will open the public option to anyone who wants it (via DKos' pronin2): 

On the night of Reid’s announcement to go for a public option Sen Wyden appeared on Maddow to announce a fight all the way to floor to open the public option to everyone, not just a few as is the case now. He says this is the time for progressives to demand the rhetoric of choice to match reality in policy. Right now the PO would be open to 10pt of America. Maddow and Wyden argue- the bigger the pool for the PO the stronger its ability to hold down rates.  

Wyden says Americans all want access to the PO. He promises a fight on the floor to open it to all! He says its time for the grassroots to advocate not talking points that public option gives you choice when it likely wont. He says if we push to open the public option to all now would be the time.



Wyden and Merkley promise to fight for choice for ALL AMERICANS.  Dems keep saying we must have a choice between a pub opt and private ones. Well , like these senators  say, let’s make rhetoric match policy!

read more...



More still to come...
Ah, an anonymous administration source calls Harry Reid's move, "dangerous."From CNN (h/t America Blog):
An administration official went so far as to call Reid's move "dangerous" but quickly followed by saying Reid knows his caucus better than anyone and will therefore have the support of the White House.
read more...
"There she is, the Party of One!" cried Sen. Barbara Mikulski when she saw Sen. Olympia Snowe outside the Senate chamber last week. Mikulski, in a wheel-chair because of a broken ankle, rolled closer to the object of her praise. "She is belle of the ball, because she has got so much on the ball!" Snowe gave an embarrassed nod. Sen. John Kerry hurried by, but stopped himself long enough to bestow upon Snowe a lordly embrace. "O, we love her!" he announced. Sen. Tom Carper testified to her brilliance. "Olympia's terrific, as you know," he said.

[snip]

In their stubborn belief that Snowe's blessing will stand as a testament to Obama's powers of inclusiveness, the president and his Democratic allies seem to have lost sight of the real point of all this flattery and praise: the need to pass a bill Americans can actually understand and that will make health care secure for all while also reducing costs. The symbolism of Snowe gets them no closer to that. (The final tally in the finance committee was 14–9. Snowe's "aye" vote, so hard won, was unnecessary.)

Worse, the pursuit of Snowe isn't uniting Democrats; it is dividing them. Democrats who haven't been in the room with her as she bargains with the leadership bristle at her role, even as they personally like and admire her. She remains deeply skeptical of a publicly financed alternative to private insurance, in good part because of what she sees as the failure of Maine's version of the idea—and yet some form of a public option is favored not only by most Democrats in Congress but by most of the American people. If Obama and the Democrats really want such a plan, they may as well try to get tough. For inspiration, the president might consider a Longfellow aphorism. "In this world," the poet wrote, "a man must either be an anvil or a hammer."

read the full piece....
More to come....


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