As per Chris Bowers' whip count, we knew Thursday that Sen. Reid said he wouldn't rule out the addition of the public option to health-care reform t
February 20, 2010

As per Chris Bowers' whip count, we knew Thursday that Sen. Reid said he wouldn't rule out the addition of the public option to health-care reform through the reconciliation process, but today's statement sounds much stronger:

The health care debate just got reignited in Washington, D.C. Late Friday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he would work with Democrats and the White House to pass a public option through reconciliation, according to the Huffington Post.

Reid put a caveat to the statement saying that he would support it if that's the path the Democratic Party chooses with the legislation.

Ezra Klein, who too often accepts the conventional "centrist" wisdom, still might be right when he says the public positions in the Senate are a lot different from the private ones (Jonathan Cohn expresses similar doubts):

I've spoken to a lot of offices about this now, and all of them are ambivalent privately, even if they're supportive publicly. No one feels able to say no to this letter, but none of them seem interested in reopening the wars over the public option. That's why the White House kicked this at Reid and Reid tossed it back at the White House. If the public option is a done deal, everyone will sign on the dotted line. But between here and there is a lot of work that no one seems committed to doing, and that many fear will undermine the work being done on the rest of the bill.

What you're seeing here are the weird politics of the public option at play. It's popular in the country. It's wildly popular among the base. It's the subject of obsessive interest in the media. There is little downside to supporting it publicly, huge downside to opposing it, and no one is allowed to ignore the issue, or even take a few days to see where the votes are.

[...] No one I've spoken to -- even when they support the public option -- thinks that its reemergence is good news for health-care reform. It won't be present in the package that the White House will unveil Monday. Everyone seems to be hoping this bubble will be short-lived.

But it might not be. The media is talking about it, liberals are organizing around it, none of the major actors feels politically capable of playing executioner, and Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson don't have the power to do the job on their own. As of now, the strategy only has 20 or so supporters, and it'll need at least another 20 or 25 to really be viable. But if it gets there, White House and Senate leadership are going to have some hard calls to make.

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