Monday, October 26, 2009

At Loggerheads

There's an interesting dynamic at work in a nation where nearly 8 in 10 people agree on something: a public healthcare option.

It may not even come to a vote, despite the fact that it has more than enough votes for it to pass.

You know, that stupid "60 votes to avoid a filibuster" rule that has clogged up legislation for hundreds of years (OK, the vote total has come down in that time, but still...):
The Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid - and a majority of Members of the Senate - support the inclusion of public health insurance option in the Senate's health care reform bill. The debate over where the Senate of the United States stands on this question is now settled. The Senate - like the American people, the House of Representatives and the President - supports a public option.

What is not settled is whether the majority will be allowed to have an up or down vote on a health care bill that includes a public option.

The question is: will any of the Democratic Senators join with the Republicans to prevent an up or down vote on a bill containing a public option - one that is supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people?

Two words for ya, Bob: Joe Lieberman (I-Insurance Company Stooge)

It ain't happenin', Bob. Simple as that. Lieberman represents Connecticut and as insurers go, so goes Connecticut. He'd be cutting his nose to spite his face and rather than retire somewhat gracefully, Joe is hellbent-for-leather to show he still has stroke in this new Senate.

His ego is too big to write the check you want him to, Bob. I'm sorry.

This requires now that Olympia Snowe step up and vote her conscience, just like she (sort of) did in committee.

Even if every other Democratic Senator, plus Bernie Sanders (who will), voted for any form of public option in even this limited fashion, Lieberman wouldn't admit an up or down vote if you held a gun to his head.

Even his colleague from Connecticut, Chris Dodd, is sweating bullets over this issue, and while Dodd will likely have the cojones to vote this forward to burnish his populist credentials (his only announced opponent for his 2010 re-election, Linda McMahon, has been hammering him mercilessly for being yoked to big government), he has to be very careful and find whatever political cover he can.

The realpolitik of the situation is this: 80% of Americans want some form of public health insurance coverage. Nearly 60% of Senators want it.

Somehow, we on the ground here have to get thru to Senators we might be able to sway from the Republican party. That's precious few, to be certain. Perhaps Susan Collins of Maine, maybe George Voinovich in Ohio (based on job losses, Ohio has an unemployment rate inching up towards 11%) could be arm-twisted, but even then, every single Democrat besides Lieberman would have to be cracked into line.

That's going to be hard. Support for a public option in the Blue Dog Democrat states is only 54%.

So close, yet so far...