Senator Bernie Sanders, in a brief interview in the Capitol just now, confirmed to me that he’s willing to commit to introducing an amendment that would add the public option to the Senate bill’s reconciliation fix.
This is important, because as far fetched as this seems, if this amendment is introduced, a vote on it would be very hard for the Senate Dem leadership to block. The only thing that could stop it from happening, according to Senate expert Robert Dove, is for the parliamentarian to rule that it’s not germane to the Senate bill somehow — something that seems unlikely...read on
As Adam Green is launching another initiative for the PCCC, we know the House doesn't trust the Senate at all, but the process seems to finally be winding down.
Ryan Grim reports that the public option is still viable, but he says it's a matter of will and not votes.
The public option faces its last stand. With more than 40 senators publicly willing to vote for a health care reform reconciliation package that includes the option, the opportunity to reinsert it into the final bill has never been greater, though the battle is nearly over without having been fought.
That balance of power gives House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) extraordinary leverage of a historical nature. Pelosi, however, has yet to concede in negotiations that it is the obligation of the House to go first. And the deal that is being reached is driven largely by the White House. But both the Senate and the White House need Pelosi. And the House, of course, has already passed a health care bill with a public option.
If the House does move first, the Senate would essentially face an up-or-down vote on whatever Pelosi sends over. Durbin was asked by HuffPost if he would whip a reconciliation package from the House that included a public option. An analysis of past statements and positions taken by members of the Democratic caucus indicates that there could plausibly be 53 votes for a public option and perhaps several more.
Durbin, in response to the question, said at first that it was hypothetical, but then answered, "I think there will come a time when we reach agreement on what the reconciliation package includes, with the understanding that any changes in the House or Senate could slow down or stop the process."
So whatever comes from the House, that's what you will whip?
"That's basically it," he said. "I hope that what comes from the House is what we agree on going into this debate."
UPDATE: The news that the Senate parliamentarian told Senate Republicans that the bill must become law before any amendments can be made through reconciliation alters the equation if true. The House, however, could still pass the Senate bill into law and then send the Senate a reconciliation fix with a public option. The Senate could torpedo that legislation without concern that no reform package at all would get passed, giving the Senate added leverage. The underlying dynamic, however, remains unchanged: In the next few days, as the White House and congressional leaders meet to hash out the way forward, the votes appear to exist to include a public option. It's only a matter of will.
It appears that Dick Durbin is not going to risk the entire bill because of the public option.
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged Wednesday that liberals may be asked to oppose any amendment, including one creating a public option, to ensure a smooth ride for the bill. “We have to tell people, ‘You just have to swallow hard’ and say that putting an amendment on this is either going to stop it or slow it down, and we just can’t let it happen,” Durbin, who supports a public option, told reporters. “We have to move this forward. We know the Republicans are likely to offer a lot of amendments, and some of them may be appealing to Democrats, but we have to urge them to stick with the bill.”
The PCCC is running a campaign against Durbin at this time and asking members of the Senate to not turn their back on it.