Here is where the Open Left public option whip count stood in the Senate as of late November, 2009:
- Oppose bill with any public option (3): Mary Landrieu; Joe Lieberman; Blanche Lincoln
- Open to an opt-in public option (1): Ben Nelson.
–Note: Not a worthwhile public option to support
- Wouldn’t filibuster an overall bill with a public option (2): Evan Bayh; Kent Conrad (never threatened to filibuster).
–Note: Neither would vote for a public option either as an amendment or stand alone bill.
- Liked the opt-out (1): Mark Pryor.
–Note: Unclear if Pryor would support non-opt-out
- Wouldn’t vote against an overall bill with negotiated rates public option (3): Mark Begich (“not a dealbreaker,” via constituent letter); Max Baucus (claims to want public option, supposedly voted against it only because it doesn’t have 60); and Mark Warner.
–Note: Never promised support as an amendment or as a stand-alone, but wouldn’t vote against a bill with one
- Support negotiated rate public option (50): The rest.
–Note: See Washington Independent scorecard. Add Tom Carper, subtract Mark Warner
Even now that Paul Kirk is no longer in the Senate, this count shows 49 supporters for a negotiated rates public option, plus one more if it is an opt-out (Pryor). With Biden, that is enough for passage.
Further, if the public option was included in the bill sent to the floor, rather than added as an amendment, three more votes–Begich, Baucus and Warner–could be counted on. That leaves room for defections, such as the one Jay Rockefeller recently made (although I still think Rockefeller is a potential “yes” vote).
Given this count, in theory, there should be plenty of votes to pass a public option through reconciliation. This is especially the case if an opt-out, negotiated rates public option was included in the bill sent to the Senate floor–something which Harry Reid did back in 2009. So, why doesn’t it appear that Senate Democrats will pass a reconciliation bill with a negotiated rates public option?
Glenn Greenwald argues this is an example of bad faith. Senators Dick Durbin’s office claims they are not going to allow any amendments to the bill the House sends them, but would whip for a bill that included a negotiated rates public option. The basic idea is that they don’t want to blow up any deals on votes once the bill reaches the floor, and they don’t want to give Republicans an opening to filibuster the bill through endless series of amendments.
While I am well aware that the White House is not pushing for the public option at all, I am still not willing to call it bad faith just yet. This is because no one has proven that there are 216 votes in the House for a reconciliation “fix” to the Senate health reform bill that includes a negotiated rates public option. There were 220 proven votes in the House back in November, but since that time three “yes” votes are no longer around, and an undetermined group of Stupak voters has also been lost.
Until someone proves that the House has 216 for a reconciliation fix with a public option, then the argument coming out of Durbin’s office cannot be disproven. Adding a public option to the reconciliation bill in the Senate might well blow up a deal with the House, and cause the package to go down. This is especially given that in order to pass the bill, House leaders are going to have to cull about a dozen votes from the 37 remaining Democrats who voted “no” in November.
So yeah, it is possible that the Democratic leadership is acting in bad faith on the public option, but it hasn’t been proven yet. The post shows that the votes should be there in the Senate. No one has made the same case for the House, but that will be the focus in the last-ditch effort for the public option over the next few days.