I'm not feeling incredibly optimistic this morning. Sounds like the most conservative (and most expensive) version of this bill will make up the fin
November 22, 2009

I'm not feeling incredibly optimistic this morning. Sounds like the most conservative (and most expensive) version of this bill will make up the final version, and I don't see much to celebrate. Is it better to have a crappy bill - or no bill at all?

And why should those be our only options?

The fact is, the Democratic leadership lacks, well, leadership. They think constructing a stage set and acting out a scene that looks like they're leading on the public option is enough to placate the people who so desperately need their help. It isn't. They simply don't get it, and it will cost them:

From the liberal end, Burris repeated a threat made earlier: That if the public option is taken out, he's gone. "I won't vote for it," he said.

"You'll lose people on the left," confirmed Brown.

Reid, aware of the fine line he's walking, told reporters that Landrieu, Schumer and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) are working on a compromise public option, perhaps something that 60 folks could support and save face.

That's what you don't understand, Harry. It's not about "face." But then, it's been so long since you had to worry about paying for your health care, I suppose it's too much to expect.

Yes, this will eventually be good for the country and perhaps our grandchildren - but it won't do much to help the people who need help during these desperate times, and it's certainly going to hurt the Democrats in the midterm elections:

After announcing her intent to support a health care debate this afternoon, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) told reporters she thinks Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will soon have to choose between a triggered public option and no health care bill. She also says Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate one of its most fierce and vocal public option advocates--has been tasked as a point man on the issue.

"I believe it's going to be very clear at some point very soon that there are not 60 votes for the current provision in the bill, and that the leader and the leadership are going to have to make a decision and I trust that they will figure out how to do that," Landrieu told reporters.

Landrieu has been in negotiations with a number of centrist senators about a compromise that would eliminate the public option, except in states where insurance remains unaffordable. Interestingly, though, Schumer is playing a big role in that process.

"Senator Schumer's working on that. He's sort of been tasked as one of the point people," she told me. "He's been tagged as one of the point people to help negotiate that."

Schumer's involvement as a liaison between liberal and conservative Democrats puts the trigger issue in a new light. When Reid announced that he'd include his opt-out plan in the health care bill in lieu of triggers, many, including trigger-author Olympia Snowe, believed the compromise to be dead. But it now appears to be one of the central points of discussion between leadership and conservative Democrats as they try to find 60 votes for a reform bill.

It's half a victory, and a weak one at that.

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