Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A "Public Option" is Still Possible

by Dee Newman

I agree with Senator Baucus that there are not 60 votes in the Senate to pass a “public option.” The Blue Dogs Democrats will not vote for it. But surely, they can be convinced (for party unity) to vote for cloture and then vote against the final bill, if they must?

Once cloture has been obtain, the legislation will only need 50 votes to pass with Vice President Biden casting the tiebreaking vote. Senate vote-counters believe that there are at least 51 votes for a bill with a “public option” like the one presented on Tuesday by Senator Chuck Schumer.

At this moment, it seems the bill coming out of the Senate Finance Committee will not have a "public option." Adding a public option amendment to the bill on the floor of the Senate that will get 60 votes to shut off debate will not be easy, but it's not impossible.

The Blue Dogs Democrats must be forced to vote for cloture. If they refuse the party should then threaten to with draw support for their re-election.

There is another alternative – reconciliation. It is a legislative process that allows a contentious budget bill in the Senate to be considered without being subject to a filibuster, needing only a simple majority to pass legislation. Though it is devious and can only be used on bills that have a significant budgetary impact, it has been done before. Most recently, under the administration of George W. Bush, Senate Republicans used reconciliation to enact three major tax cuts.

There is much on the line. Both the Democrats and the Republicans know it. If a health care reform bill is passed that forces all Americans to buy health insurance and it does not include a "public option," the outrage and repercussion could be devastating for Democrats. However, if Democrats are successful in passing legislation that provides an affordable public option that will reduce health care costs, the Republican party may never recover from the defeat.

I predict that a health care reform bill with a public option will be signed by the President before Christmas.

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