WASHINGTON — The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, sided with his party’s liberals on Monday and announced that he would include a government-run insurance plan in health care legislation that he plans to take to the Senate floor within a few weeks.The idea of state's electing to accept or deny the option is an interesting concept. Would it push some of these "Blue Dogs" to vote for the bill? I am not sure I am completely convinced yet.
His proposal came with an escape hatch: A state could refuse to participate in the public insurance plan by adopting a law to opt out. Even so, the announcement was a turning point in the debate over how much of a role government should play in an overhauled health care system, and it set the stage for a test of Democratic party unity.
With Republicans united for now in opposition to any bill including a public option, Mr. Reid needs support from all members of his caucus — 58 Democrats and two independents — to take up the legislation. Aides said Monday that he appeared to be short of that goal, lacking firm commitments from several members of the caucus.
Blogger Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com offers some insight on the recent developments around the Health Care bill:
The first surprise is that Reid is showing some backbone. I don't think this move is quite as risky as it looks, because Reid has some wiggle room before he passes the point of no return. But Harry Reid does not generally have a reputation as a risk-taker, even in small doses. A nontrivial factor is that he's literally gone overnight from being a goat to a hero in the progressive blogger/activist community, something that could pay dividends when he's seeking cash and volunteers for what will be a very tough re-election campaign. Save perhaps for Alex Rodriguez, nobody has done more in the last month to resuscitate their image with their fan base.It seems the next few months will determine whether the public option is included in a the bill for reforming healthcare. For many reform supporters, it is the essential piece in assuring that all American's have equal access to the medical supports they need.
The second surprise is that this happened without much explicit support from the White House.
The third surprise is the way that Democrats regrouped after the turmoil of August. The President's speech on September 9th was a major and -- in my opinion -- still somewhat underrated factor in this. But also: the tea party/town hall movement that dominated the headlines in August is at this stage somewhat immature, with a lot of sound and fury but not so much focus -- sort of where liberals were at in 2002/03 before the failures of the Bush administration became more manifest. Whereas liberal activists have been focused on a laser like the public option, conservative activists have been distracted by ACORN, Van Jones, the NFL's conspiracy against Rush Limbaugh, and who-knows-what. Usually it's liberals who have amorphous, omnibus critiques of the government, and conservatives who bear down on specific policies; the polarity seems somewhat to have reversed.
The fourth surprise, less important than the first three, is that the usually very footsure insurance lobby undermined its credibility by putting out the wrong study at the wrong time, giving a gift to Democrats by making it easier for centrist Senators to distance themselves from them.
The fifth surprise is that the usually very prepared Olympia Snowe didn't do her homework on triggers, failing to flesh out the proposal to the point where it was ready for a floor vote, much less had gained credibility with the Democratic caucus. If Snowe had done more legwork on the trigger -- at least theoretically, there are manifestations of it that ought to have been relatively acceptable to progressives -- then we'd almost certainly be talking about a "hard" trigger versus a "soft" trigger, instead of opt-ins versus opt-outs.
With all that said, again, it is not yet time for progressives to be breaking out the champagne. The momentum for the public option could unravel, and could conceivably even take the whole project of health care reform with it. And the public option, particularly in its compromised form, is less of a game-changer than either wing seems to think.
But none of this would have been possible without the yeoman effort of a relatively small number of bloggers and activists -- they know who they are -- who were tired of taking "no" for an answer. They wanted this fight because of the paradigm-shifting implications it could have for how business gets done in the Democratic Party. And, somewhat to my surprise, they're having it.