Senate Finance Committee rejects public option

Posted on September 29, 2009

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The Senate Finance Committee rejected two amendments offered by Senators Charles Schumer and Jay Rockefeller that would have injected a taxpayer-funded and government-run public option into the bill authored by Sen. Max Baucus currently under consideration. The Rockefeller amendment was voted down by a margin of 15-8, which saw chairman Baucus and five other Democrats joining united Republican opposition to the public option. The Schumer amendment was defeated by a margin of 13-10. The “nay” votes by Baucus was one of pragmatism, as he had this to say:

The public option would help to hold insurance companies’ feet to the fire, I don’t think there’s much doubt about that, but my first job is to get this bill across the finish line … No one shows me how to get to 60 votes with a public option.

Reading between the lines tells you that there’s fractured support among Democrats for the public option, as all by themselves they have the 60 votes that Baucus is looking for. But moderate and centrists Democrats have misgivings about a government plan, and their doubts are bolstered by sliding poll support driven by public confusion and opposition to the public option as it’s been presented thus far.

Don’t think that this signals the final defeat of the public option, not when Speaker Pelosi says she won’t vote for a bill with no public option with 100 House Democrats are with her. Support may be passionate and intense in the House, but in the Senate it is far more tepid, as indicated by these votes. It may fall to being added by the conference committee, which might be a clever way to get around legislative hurdles but seems like a dishonest way to introduce such broad and sweeping legislation. It’s a setback for public option supporters, for sure, but by no means has the fat lady sung on this one.

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Posted in: News, Politics