On the surface, Greenwald makes a good point about the public option. But when you dig deeper into the political realities of the current situation, it rings a little hollow. Several caveats for you in case you intend to click over and read Greenwald’s post.
1) First and foremost, the current reconciliation scenario is not about the full Senate bill. That’s been passed already. It’s about a sidecar bill containing “conference” compromises with the House. So to suggest that people like Nate Silver, who were against using reconciliation to pass the full bill, have to eat shit because reconciliation is being used now is simply in error. The fact remains that reconciliation could not have been used for the full bill, with or without the public option. We know now, based on Kent Conrad’s remarks, that it’s doubtful 50 Democrats would have voted for the full bill via reconciliation. Besides, the parliamentarian wouldn’t have allowed it. Put another way, the debate about reconciliation in the Fall or Summer is very different than the current reconciliation debate. We’re talking about two very different bills.
2) Contrary to what Greenwald wrote, it’s not the Senate that’s resistant to whipping for the public option. Dick Durbin made it clear that he would find the votes for whatever sidecar the House proposes. The vote whipping crisis is, in fact, in the House. Speaker Pelosi is balking at adding the public option and trying to whip up votes for a sidecar with it included. My hunch is that this has to do with her efforts to secure votes on the Senate bill, and every vote is going to count there. I seriously doubt she’s doing this out of spite against Durbin and the Senate Democrats. She doesn’t have the votes.
3) Greenwald writes:
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?
Do we know this for sure? Is there confirmation that we have 50 and 216 for the sidecar with the public option (or without it for that matter) and 216 for the Senate bill? Actually, we might have the 50, but I don’t know if we have the 216, thanks to the blue dogs and the Stupak Invisibles.
4) And lastly, it’s no secret that this whole thing hangs by the narrowest of threads. Any hiccup could doom the whole thing. I believe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership are rightfully skittish, so naturally they want to simply get this passed before it’s too late or before another group of self-serving lawmakers decides to throw their weight around. In other words, I don’t think anyone is particularly interested in being the one who collapses this very precarious balancing act.
Adding… I also believe that the public option isn’t dead. It just won’t be part of the initial package of reforms. The Democrats need to pass whatever they can right away — a process that will cross the majority threshold with no breathing room. Then, once we tick beyond the zero barrier and pass this thing, the public option can be added while knowing it won’t tip the scales on the entire reform package.