It’d be nice to have a public option come out of the Senate Finance Committee, all but guaranteeing a public option in the final bill. If there was any doubt, Paul Kirk has now pledged to vote for a public option. Unless Baucus can find another reason to delay, the three public option amendments will be debated and voted upon tomorrow. All eyes are on the conservative Democrats in the committee, none of whom have firmly taken a stand one way or another.
In the House, opposition to the public option is wavering.
Jane Hampshire sets up the status of the conservative Senate Finance Committee Democrats as follows:
- Max Baucus — has said he supports a public plan, despite the fact that his bill doesn’t contain one.
Bill Nelson — acknowledges that a public option would address lack of competition in the health care industry, but said he was against it, then he was “open” to it, and most recently says it must be subject to triggers.Bill Nelson — says emerging public option is “attractive.”
- Kent Conrad — Has always said that “there aren’t enough votes for a public option,” but wouldn’t say if he was one of them. Told Ezra Klein today he would only be open to one that wasn’t tied to Medicare rates — which Schumer’s “level playing field” isn’t.
- Blanche Lincoln — said in July that a public insurance option should be included in any health care bill, but since then has changed her position like some people change their hair color.
- Tom Carper — thinks the job of the Senate Finance Committee is to honor back room deals with PhRMA. Won’t say how he feels about a public option.
There are 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans on the committee, which means they can only lose two Democratic votes and still pass the amendment. So, in order for a public plan to come out of Finance, three of these are going to have to get off the fence.
Again, these Democrats have not said they would ultimately vote against a public option. They’ve only said repeatedly “we don’t have the votes.”
The pressure is on Baucus, who has taken in over 3 million in donations from insurance companies.
This is the time to hit these Senators with emails and telephone calls. The following are talking points:
- The CBO scoring of the House bill shows an additional $85 billion in savings over the Blue Dog/Energy & Commerce version: the public option will save money and bend that cost curve.
- The public option remains popular with majorities of Americans.
- The public option is popular with swing state voters.
- In national polling, voters oppose a mandate to purchase private insurance by 64% to 34% but support a mandate with a choice of private or public insurance by 60% to 37%.
There’s room for cautious optimism at this point, but if even Schumer’s weak public option makes it into the Finance Committee bill, it will be the starting point for negotiations in consolidation with the HELP bill and eventually with the House bill.
The liberal PACs have been busy. Here’s what they’ve been hitting Baucus with in Montana, where the majority support a public option, but he’s taken over 3 million in insurance interest donations.
Addendum: Evan Bayh says the Republicans are irrelevant.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a major force behind the public option, slams Baucus in an Op-Ed.
And Howard Dean is warning of a backlash if the Democrats do not pass a public option.
Sometimes SNL has it and sometimes it doesn’t. They don’t have a good character actor for Glenn Beck, and you’d think he’d be easy.
Blue Cross Blues