Monday, March 15, 2010

The fate of the public option

Democracy for America----- Original Message -----
From: Charles Chamberlain, Democracy for America
Sent: Sunday, March 14, 2010 8:00 AM
Subject: The fate of the public option

On Friday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin announced that the Senate will
support and pass whatever the House includes in a reconciliation bill --
even if it includes the choice of a public health insurance option.

This gives Speaker Nancy Pelosi a historic opportunity to take the reins
back on behalf of the House of Representatives and the majority of Americans
who want a public option.

It's up to us to make sure Speaker Pelosi doesn't kill the public option
because she's afraid to act. She needs to know that we'll be there to have
her back. We'll whip Congress to pass the bill and help every step of the
way to get the majority votes we'll need to win.

Sign the petition at
riight now and we'll deliver each signature to her office at the end of the
day on Monday. And then again on Tuesday. And again on Wednesday. We'll
deliver the new signatures every day until she gets the job done.

The petition:

The fate of the public option is in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's hands. It's up to
us to make sure she doesn't kill the most popular piece of reform.

Thank you for everything you do,


Charles Chamberlain, Political Director
Democracy for America


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

by Glenn Greenwald
Salon: March 12, 2010

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

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

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.

© 2010 Salon

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