Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Senate HCR bill today; public option tomorrow

Jonathan Bernstein provides crucial perspective on the public option: it is a battle that can be won another day, if only Democrats have the courage to win now by passing the bill that's currently on the table. Commenting on Blanche Lincoln's primary challenger Bill Halter's support for the p.o., Bernstein (guest-blogging on Andrew Sullivan's Dish) writes:
I expect virtually every Democrat in contested primaries during this and (if still not enacted) the next campaign cycle to support the public option, at least in any district in which Democrats have a chance to win.  The main exceptions will be incumbents such as Lincoln who already voted against it...and I won't be shocked if she switches.  In a Democratic primary, I don't see any potential downside.  Liberals love it, and for better or worse Democrats don't believe that it will be a general election liability.
The other part of this is that the public option should be eligible for a reconciliation bill, so it won't take sixty Democrats to get it done.
 In a comment string on Kos last week I made a similar point, minus the perspective on the effect of primary challenges:
I don't think putting the public option into the reconciliation patch is genuinely on the table - nor should it be. Rockefeller had it right. Putting it in would knock out the House blue dogs who might come aboard because the Senate bill is more conservative than the House's, offsetting some of those who might vote no because the Senate bill weakened the Stupak abortion prohibition.  I'd like to see a strong PO passed through reconciliation at a later date - perhaps when the pendulum swings back toward Dems in 2012 or 14.  The exchanges won't be up until 2014 anyway.  Better to get the framework up -- it can be jiggered through reconciliation forever after. Per TR Reid's book The Healing of America, country's with effective health care systems, like France and Germany, are forever tinkering with them.
Obama is right to tweak the bill rightward now to increase its chances of squeaking through. As always, he takes a long view, and he has been consistent from the start about the "core elements of the bill" that are interdependent and that provide a foundation for expanded access and cost control.  The public option might vastly strengthen the new system on both counts, but it's at the top of second-tier priorities. It can be added later.

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