Morgen on October 5, 2009 at 11:17 am
As John posted earlier, there are some new indications that the public option is not as dead as many political watchers had come to believe. Yes, just last week two separate amendments to add a public option were defeated in the Senate Finance Committee – but it was never expected be part of the Senate Finance bill anyway. The liberal backers of ObamaCare still have two remaining opportunities to add it back in. First, when the Senate Finance bill is merged with the bill which already passed the Senate Health and Labor Committee. And failing that, there will be yet another opportunity when the Senate and House versions of the bill are merged in the final conferencing process (assuming a bill passes both the House and Senate).
The politics of this will be interesting. The Administration seems to be lobbying for the Senate to pass some version of the public option on the floor. It’s a risky strategy since a loss there will make it much more difficult – if not impossible – to later obtain the support necessary to try again in the conferencing process. But it may be a necessary strategy since the Blue Dog Democrats in the House are very reluctant to go out on a limb and vote for a bill which includes a public option, without knowing whether it will even be included in the Senate bill. And Pelosi will need the support of at least a handful of Blue Dogs in order to pass the bill out of the House.
So it’s a complicated balancing act, and at a minimum, the Administration needs to be able to foster the perception that there is momentum in favor of the public option in order to keep the legislative process moving. This is because without a public option, they may not even be able to pass a bill at all in the House, and the entire process could collapse. (Only wishful thinking at this point.)
And if there is anyone who still believes that the Administration has really backed off the public option, I submit for you the following audio clip. This was recorded back in July from a private conference call the White House arranged with a group of prominent liberal bloggers. As you will hear, the Administration’s strategy all along has been to get some version of the bill passed through both the House and Senate, and then to use the conferencing process to shape the final product to their liking. Click below to listen:
Note, of course, that the President clearly included “a serious public option” as one of his key benchmarks which need to be part of the final legislation. So remember this, even if the public option fails to pass the Senate over the next few weeks. It’s not over until it’s over. And contrary to what the Administration has led many to believe, they are going to fight for the public option trojan horse until the end.