Setting aside for a moment the foolishness of a public option, Reid’s insistence on including this provision in a plan is utterly baffling. The public option was killed over the summer when Democrats realized the political infeasibility of the concept. The Democrats simply did not have the votes in the Senate to avoid a Republican-led filibuster. The Democrats need every single member of their caucus (58 Democrats and 2 Independents) to agree with the plan in order to push it through without Republican support. The political reality indicated that this just was not possible. If one Democrat wavered the entire plan would fail. And so, wisely the Democrats seemed to move on from the public option. After all, they profess that their real goal is to achieve much needed health-care reform.
Reid’s move to bring back the discussion on the public-option is a step backwards. Nothing has changed to indicate a different political environment. In fact, shortly after his announcement Olympia Snowe, the sole Republican to have voted with Democrats on some health-care related issues, backed off from her cross aisle move. She indicated she would work with Republicans to quash any health care reform that included a public option. Snowe’s rebuke was quickly followed by one from Joe Lieberman – one of the two Independents who caucuses with the Democrats. With Lieberman’s defection a public option is undoable.
So what are the left-wing Democrats trying to accomplish? The inclusion of a public option will sink any reform bill. If the Democrats truly want to reform healthcare, they need to face the reality that it cannot (nor should not – see a prior post on ANR) include a public option. Reid’s gambit seems to lead to nothing but a dead end – torpedoing the Democrats’ and Obama’s crown jewel.
Ironically, it appears that Reid is sabotaging any chance at Democrat-led healthcare reform. One possible explanation is that the Democrats are in such internal disagreement that they cannot design any plan that is amenable to all wings of the party. The tensions between the leftists and the centrists are running high. In order to avoid a failure based on the Democrats’ inability to compromise, Reid is setting up a surefire way to fail that can be pegged on supposed Republican obstructionism. At the end of the day, Democrats will point to the ‘anti-reform’ Republicans who successfully filibustered their plan, rather than their own ranks for the political failure to pass a reform bill. If one is going to fail, at least make it look like it is someone else’s fault.
The Wall Street Journal offers another relatively plausible explanation for Reid’s maneuver. Reid might be offering the plan knowing full well that he will have to drop the public option. The WSJ writes;
He could then tell the left that he did his best, only to have been beaten back to the unreliable likes of Mr. Lieberman….Meanwhile, such endangered swing-state Democrats as Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas could claim they won a great concession if the public option fails, making it easier for them to vote for a final bill that would still do enormous harm to private insurance and the federal fisc.Reid and his cronies could be trying to push the negotiating grounds leftward in order to achieve a more Democrat-friendly outcome. This is a risky move, but opens an opportunity for Republicans. Senate Republicans should point out the foolishness of Reid’s insistence for a public option. They can easily turn the tables on the Democrats, by branding them obstructionist. How can the Democrats claim to be solving our health care problem if they are offering proposals that clearly are not passable? However, such a strategy necessitates a counter-proposal – something the Republicans have been lacking. A successful Republican-led reform will offer America the right kind of health care fix and deal the final deathblow to the leftist Democrats’ socialist ambitions. Let’s put a nail in this coffin for good.