Lieberman, Snowe and other moderates to oppose Reid’s public option Senate bill

Posted on October 27, 2009

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday that he was planning on sending a bill to the Senate floor that has a public option with an opt-out clause for states (although apparently a co-op will also be involved too). He’s going to run into some problems, however, from his previous allies when it comes time to vote on his bill. Sen. Olympia Snowe, who was the pivotal Republican vote to get the Baucus bill out of committee, will not be supporting it, and even more telling, Sen. Joe Lieberman has said he will help filibuster Reid’s health care bill. That’s a solid 41 votes against the bill, and moderate Democratic Senators like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Evan Bayh are equivocating on their support, which isn’t a great sign either.

Can you blame them? Reid’s inclusion of the public option makes the drama over the Baucus bill even more irrelevant. Baucus’ bill, which relied on co-ops instead of a public option, was hailed as a supposedly great compromise bill that got the blessing of the CBO in regards to deficits. Reid has decided to throw all of that aside and press ahead with a public option plan that has already been shown by the CBO to be costly and debt-fueling.

The opt-out clause is a lame attempt at moderation that is pretty much a joke. Unless states have some sort of trade-off for opting out of the public plan (for example, being exempt from the taxes that will pay for it) then there will be no state that has a reason to opt out except out of sheer principle. I would instead prefer to have an opt-out clause for individuals rather than states – but that won’t happen, will it?

The response of Lieberman and Snowe are illustrative of the stupidity of Reid’s move. The public option is a no-go with moderates and centrists of both parties – even in the House the “robust” public option that Nancy Pelosi craves is running into problems with over 50 members of her own party. The bipartisan consensus runs against it, not for it. Reid and Pelosi are caving big time to the left wing of their party, which apparently can’t see beyond anything besides passing a public option at any cost.

It could be that it’s all a dance destined for failure just so the Democratic leadership can tell the base, “Hey, we tried.” In the meantime, other ideas and other efforts at real reform will languish on the sidelines as games of ideology and partisanship are carried out on the floor of Congress. One thing’s for sure – the votes are going to be very interesting.

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Posted in: News, Politics