Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced the broad outlines of the Senate’s health care reform compromise bill, which includes a public option with no ‘trigger mechanism,’ but which does have an “opt-out” provision for the states. The compromise reflects Reid’s math that his chances for 60 votes are better if he doesn’t try to win the support of Senator Olympia Snowe, whose “trigger mechanism” would have lost the vote of WV Democrat Jay Rockefeller and perhaps others. According to The New York Times report,
Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine…issued a statement saying that she would not support for Mr. Reid’s plan. “I am deeply disappointed with the majority leaders’ decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation,” she said. Ms. Snowe expressed her long-standing position that a government-run plan should only be “triggered” in states where the health care legislation otherwise fails to provide affordable insurance to enough people.
It’s likely that Snowe’s inflexibility contributed to Reid’s decision — that if he announced in favor of a “trigger mechanism,” she would hang tough for a standard that would make any possibility of a real public option very doubtful, according to many experts. it appears unlikely that she would have been open to a face-saving “hair trigger’ version in which the ‘public option’ would kick in quickly, if insurers fail to offer affordable coverage. In the end, Reid must have concluded that she was more interested in killing the public option, period, than in achieving a compromise that would be acceptable to most Democrats. No doubt Reid also felt a responsibility to voters, who opinion polls indicate favor a real public option by a healthy margin. Making Snowe happy would likely have cost Democrats — and Reid — considerable public support. It appears she overplayed her hand.
According to the L.A. Times report by Noam M. Levey, Reid’s plan has 58 votes, and he feels that he has a good chance to win the two more he needs for victory on a cloture vote. Levey did not identify the two Senators Reid needs to win, But the NYT article says that Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska have “expressed doubts” about the plan.
The plan reportedly also provides for taxing of the so-called “Cadillac” health care plans, although there are no details about definitions yet available. Hopefully Reid won’t draw the line low enough to incur the opposition of unions. Democratic support for Reid’s compromise will turn to some extent on the Congressional Budget Office cost analysis.