Senator Tom Harkin, who leads the HELP committee, made a stunning statement to The Hill:
The Senate has the votes to pass a healthcare reform bill including a public option, a key Senate chairman said Tuesday.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said that the Senate "comfortably" has a majority of votes to pass the public plan, and that he believes Democrats can muster 60 votes to break a filibuster.
"I have polled senators, and the vast majority of Democrats — maybe approaching 50 — support a public option," Harkin said told the liberal "Bill Press Radio Show." "So why shouldn't we have a public option? We have the votes.
"I believe we'll have the 60 votes, now that we have the new senator from Massachusetts, to at least get it on the Senate floor," Harkin later added. "But once we cross that hurdle, we only need 51 votes for the public option. And I believe there are, comfortably, 51 votes for a public option."
That's great news. Let's hope it plays out this way.
I have said before (most recently here) that the Senate Finance Committee was conservative, in fact the most conservative committee makeup in the Senate, and that we would be likely to lose these votes:
With numbers like this, and with the entire Democratic base mobilized intensely around the issue, you would have to be politically tone deaf as a Democrat to oppose this, but this is the Senate Finance Committee, so public option advocates are likely to lose these votes. The question, though, will be the margin. On a committee this conservative, far more conservative than the Senate as a whole, if we only get seven votes for the public option amendments, that would have to be considered a major political victory, and a sign that the public option can definitely get a majority vote on the floor.
So getting 10 votes on this is promising for those of us who believe a public option is essential. Baucus, Conrad, Lincoln, Carper, and Bill Nelson are five of the ten most conservative Dems in the Senate, and on the Schumer amendment, even two of them went with us. President Obama is for it, a majority in the House is for it, and the whip count we're running right here at OpenLeft.com shows that 51 Democrats are in favor of it. And today Tom Harkin confirmed that our whip count is right...
Will all this evidence, the public option will only be hard to beat if Democratic leaders decide they don't want to do it.
And Digby has more:
Carper and Nelson flipped on the Shumer public option amendment, leaving only Conrad, Lincoln and Baucus voting against it. This is good news believe it or not. It indicates that there are 51 votes for a public option in the senate.
The question most certainly is whether or not the president can change their minds. And frankly, if he doesn't have enough juice to at least hold them together for one cloture vote then I have to wonder if he has any real juice at all. Every one of these corporate lackeys can vote against the final bill if they dare. Assuming they can bring Byrd in to do it, all they need to do is break a Republican filibuster and "allow an up or down vote."
Now matter what FOX News says, the public option is not dead. I saw Schumer on with Tweety and he was ecstatic that he flipped a couple of votes. It sucks that he has to kowtow to Max Baucus, though. He was talking to him like he was the Duke of Westminster. All that royalty cannot be overlooked.
Tweety asked Schumer about those pesky liberal ads that are being run against Baucus, as if Matthews thought he was NOT going to defend his Senate brother. And during our President Obama blogger conference call, Obama told US to keep the pressure on everybody. He's got to push for the public option hard no matter what Rahm thinks.