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.
- 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."
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:
Then Max Baucus jumped in:
(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.Here's Sen. Christopher Dodd, via e-mail:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Via TPM's Brian Beutler:
Here's poor Olympia Snowe's statement (also via TPM):
"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."
"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 Brian Beutler's take on wht that statement might mean...
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."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.
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."JOE LIEBERMAN UPDATE II: Here's more of Joe's
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.
"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]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.
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...
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.
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."he doesn't consider Lieberman to be one of the main problems:
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."
"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."
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:He wasn't the only one compiling this kind of a list....
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.
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....
[...] 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.
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.
"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.More to come....
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....