Centrist Democrats Are Cool To Reid’s Plan For Public Option
With his announcement regarding support for the public option, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plans to move health legislation to the Senate floor face big challenges.
The Hill reports that Reid is short of the votes to pass a government-run public option in the Senate bill. Several moderate Democrats - among them Sens. Ben Nelson, of Nebraska; Evan Bayh, of Indiana; and Blanche Lincoln, of Arkansas - decline to say if they'll support a motion to begin debate on the bill. "They are waiting for a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and a chance to review the bill before making a decision" (Bolton and Rushing, 10/27).
CongressDaily: Divisions among moderate Senate Democrats became obvious on Tuesday, but "Reid asked [them] to stick with him on a vote to let debate begin on the healthcare bill, regardless of whether or not they favor a public insurance plan in the measure that would allow states to opt out" (Edney, 10/28).
The Los Angeles Times: "Reid needs all 58 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with the Democrats, or some Republican defectors. He is gambling that there are enough carrots and sticks lying around Capitol Hill to line up the votes he needs. A senior Democrat said that there were about 10 Democratic senators whose support had yet to be nailed down" (Hook and Levey, 10/28).
The New York Times: "Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, who supports a public plan but shepherded a health bill through the Finance Committee without it because he thought it could never win 60 votes, said he could not predict how senators might line up. 'I don't know. I don't know. I don't know,' Mr. Baucus said when asked if he had changed his view of the public plan's chances. 'I just really don't know.' ... The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that in his view a vote to debate the legislation would be tantamount to supporting it, which he said would raise taxes and increase health care costs" (Herszenhorn and Pear, 10/27).
The Associated Press: "Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said he may seek changes on the Senate floor, a move likely to be welcomed by moderates. He backs a government role in states where one or two insurers control the market and premiums are high, along the same lines as a plan supported by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/28).
The Boston Globe: "Carper's idea, which he joked he might christen 'the 60-vote option,' might bring along Maine's junior senator, Republican Susan Collins, who said yesterday she could not support Reid's opt-out proposal. 'I don't see the opt-out as being any kind of compromise at all,' Collins said" (Wangsness and Milligan, 10/28).
Politico runs down a list of some of the more prominent moderates in the Senate and where they stand on the legislation. One of "the toughest votes" is Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats (Raju and Frates, 10/28).
The Washington Post: Lieberman "told reporters that he was 'inclined to support' a procedural motion to bring the measure to the floor. But he remains opposed to a government-run insurance plan in any form - even with an 'opt-out' provision for states that Reid said Monday he will include in the legislation." And, unless the public-option provision is removed, he said "he probably will align with Republicans to block the measure" (Murray and Montgomery, 10/28).
The Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Lieberman says he fears the public option won't be self-sustaining. 'I think that a lot of people may think that the public option is free. It's not,' Mr. Lieberman said. 'It's going to cost the taxpayers and people that have health insurance now, and if it doesn't, it's going to add terribly to our national debt'" (Adamy, Yoest and Hitt, 10/28).