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Public Option is Back in the News

John on February 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Harry Reid has just signed on to a plan to force the health reform bill through by reconciliation with a public option added in the process.

Over at TNR, Jonathan Cohn reports that this is the latest payoff in a behind the scenes battle that has been going on for several weeks. Schumer just hopped on the bandwagon Thursday:

[G]roups such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have been waging a grassroots campaign–circulating petitions, organizing calls to Congress, and keeping a whip count. And it didn’t seem to be making huge headway early on. The only senators to sign on were liberal stalwarts (like Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders) and members worried about tenuous liberal support for their reelection campaigns (like Michael Bennet and Kirsten Gillinbrand).

But on Thursday, the effort picked up support from an unexpected source, one with much bigger legislative clout: Charles Schumer. The petition drive has just 18 senators, even with Schumer. But suddenly the possibility of getting others seems more plausible.

But Cohn goes on to throw cold water on this plan:

Here’s how one Senate leadership aide put it to me on Thursday, following the news about Schumer:

Despite the flurry of press reports, nothing has changed over the last couple of days, except that maybe there are less votes for the public option that there were a few months ago.

So what is really going on here? Ezra Klein is also following this. He more or less says that it’s about rallying the base for the 2010 elections:

If you believe, as most people do, that midterm elections are largely about base mobilization, and that Scott Brown’s victory was in part assured by demoralized Democrats who didn’t feel much affection for either Martha Coakley or the Democrats in Washington, this may be the party’s last, best hope to give its passionate supporters the win that would reinvigorate them for 2010. “I don’t think that was the original strategy behind signing this letter,” one Senate aide told me. “But that may be the strategy we fall backwards into.”

In short, this is a desperation play to create some kind of rallying point, anything that will stop the pattern of democratic resignations which seemed to be gaining momentum and threatening to wipe out the party come November.

Klein, like Cohn, isn’t convinced this is a good idea:

A zombie public option debate could well drag health-care reform into the grave as well.

Left unsaid by everyone, of course, is the fact that the case against the public option has never really appeared in the press anywhere. The MSM has more or less given it a complete pass, making sure that the intentions of its creators remain concealed behind the curtain of “choice and competition.”

Just a few weeks ago, Cokie Roberts was still wondering on This Week what all the fuss was about. I suspect she, like most Americans, really doesn’t know. The result is that when polled about the public option, it does well. Ignorance is bliss.

The real danger in this zombie-option strategy is that when they bring it back this time someone in the MSM will actually dare to report on why this “minor feature” is so damn important to so many on the left. And if the word gets out to the public those poll results are going to go south very, very quickly.

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Category: Health & Education |

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