What 60th Vote

Ezra has a good summary of the state of play on the hill.  But he ends with this:

To move the process forward, Reid had three options. The first, many would say, was reconciliation. But that would have required going back to the committees to refashion a reconciliation bill, and going back to the House of Representatives so it could craft a reconciliation bill, and then going back through the votes. There wasn't time for that, and even if there was, throwing the process so far back onto itself would have been an enormous risk.

The next was to cut a deal with Olympia Snowe. But Snowe had made it clear that part of any compromise with her was a deceleration in the bill's momentum. "The more they try to drive this process in an unrealistic timeframe, the more reluctant I become about whether or not this can be doable in this timeframe that we're talking about," Snowe told reporters. "There's always January."

That left Joe Lieberman. And Lieberman's price for signing onto the bill was the destruction of the public option and, unexpectedly, the Medicare buy-in provision. There would be no triggers, no opt-outs, no compromises. Lieberman swung the axe and cut his deal cleanly, killing not only the public option, but anything that looked even remotely like it. Some on the Hill remain worried that Lieberman will discover new points of contention in the coming days, as they believe he had signaled that he wouldn't filibuster the Medicare buy-in. They worry whether his word is good. But assuming it is, he can provide the 60th vote Reid needs to move the bill by the end of next week, and keep health-care reform on some sort of schedule.

Last time I looked, Ben Nelson was saying no deal unless there's a Stupak amendment.  As far as I know, there is still no Stupak amendment.  And as Ezra says, Snowe will not do a deal before Christmas.  Unless I'm missing something, even if Lieberman signs on, the count is still at 59. 


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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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