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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Final Four…or Six to Decide Fate of Public Option

Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo has a short, but informative post “The Final Four: Who’s Standing In Reid’s Way, And Can They Be Won Over?” discussing the motives of four senators now stalling enactment of a decent health care reform bill. Beutler dishes on what’s driving Sens. Lieberman, Lincoln, Nelson and Landrieu.
Lieberman, he says is most likely driven by the insurance industry’s formidable clout in his home state, and Beutler also wonders if Lieberman is consciously giving some “cover to his centrist friends,” who would like a more bipartisan final vote to end debate. This last notion seems a little calculated, but it may be part of his gambit. However, there’s no denying the influence of the insurance industry in CT.
Beutler cites Sen. Lincoln’s waffling on the public option — her website and recently-stated postions re the public option are at odds — as symptomatic of her tough re-election campaign. Lincoln, says Beutler, “would like to present her conservative constituents with a scalp to prove she didn’t roll over for the liberals in her party.” Sounds about right. She may also be enjoying the unprecedented media attention, if not the heat.
Sen. Nelson “always prefers the option that liberals in the party don’t…” He feels his cred with constituents depends on his being the maverick Dem on most issues. He wants to show them that his leadership made the reform bill more responsiblle in terms of cost-containment.
Beutler puzzles a bit over Landrieu, who isn’t up for re-election until ’14. She is dealing with a trickier constituency, since the flight of too many Dems from Louisiana since Katrina. I’m thinking she is leveraging her position to get more much-needed aid for her state, as she did on the vote-to-debate. Pretty clever, actually.
Beutler makes mention of Sens. Carper and Snowe, both advocates of a ‘trigger mechanism,’ but he doesn’t say much about exactly what can be done to win the support of any of the six senators in question. Poor Harry Reid is playing a very difficult game of three-dimensional chess, in which concessions to any of the six have to be precisely measured, then weighed against worst and best-case scenarios.
Since Lieberman is out of the picture for any kind of public option, the logic of the political moment points to some kind of trigger-like amendment, or perhaps a private/public hybrid. As a Baltimore Sun editorial puts it, “If the public option survives, it will be watered down like a discount cocktail at a low-rent nightclub.”
If progressive Dems have to eat a weak public option, a much more substantial broadening of eligibility for access to the ‘insurance exchanges,’ as Sen. Wyden has been advocating could sweeten the bitter pill. What is unacceptable is that four, or even six senators be allowed to gut the public option supported by a majority of both houses of congress, with no quid pro quo reflected in the final bill.

One comment on “The Final Four…or Six to Decide Fate of Public Option

  1. Tom on

    Here is an excellent piece on those vaunted “exchanges” by Trudy Lieberman, who has an outstanding series on HCR:
    “The provision, euphemistically named the Health Care Choice Compact, would work like this: Two or more states could join together and allow insurers selling health coverage to be governed by the laws and regulations of the state where the policy was issued, not the rules of the state where they’re sold. So a company wanting to sell in, say, Wyoming or South Carolina—which may have weak regulations—could choose to issue its policies in those states but actually sell them in New York or California—where the rules are tougher. If policyholders have problems with their coverage, too bad: the rules of the weaker state would apply, and they could be out of luck.”
    Read the whole thing. Hell, read the whole series.
    The Devil in the Details, Part III : CJR


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