The Silver Lining in the Public Option's Defeat

Reform-minded liberals find a new hero, and cause for hope

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Democrats may be assembling the circular firing squad after the public option's defeat by the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. But a few liberals see an upside to yesterday's vote. The emergence of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) as a champion of reform is just one reason why the public option might live to see another day.

  • Looking Ahead, Public Option Still has a Chance  Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic explains the ways that the provision could still pass. "Finance is but one committee," he writes, "an important committee, to be sure, but one all the same. The bill from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has a public plan. So do the bills that came out of three House committees over the summer. Senator Harry Reid has indicated he probably won't include a public plan when he merges the Finance and HELP proposals, but there will be a chance to add one during the floor vote debate and then again during conference committee deliberations, assuming the House passes one."
  • Public Option Gained Two Senate Supporters  Steve Benen points out that while the measure failed, the Schumer amendment earned votes from two senators previously considered "on the fence" about a public option. "The Washington Independent's Public Option Scoreboard featured 47 supporters of a public option, 39 opponents, and 14 senators who are 'on the fence.' Two of those 14 -- Bill Nelson (D) of Florida and Tom Carper (D) of Delaware -- voted for the Schumer amendment," he wrote. "Adding two to 47 obviously doesn't produce a majority," he added, but it's an important step closer.
  • Liberal Reformers Find New Hero in Rockefeller  Jonathan Cohn heralds Sen. Rockefeller, who emerged as a liberal champion of health care reform. "Rockefeller sees it through the eyes of West Virginians making $30,000 a year--people who just want to know they can pay their premiums and that, if they do, the insurance they get will protect them when they get sick," he writes. "But for Rockefeller, it really boils down to a simple proposition: A public plan is good because you know it will always be there for you." Digby agrees, as does Marcy Wheeler, who dubs Rockefeller "Jay Rock."
  • Could Public Option Pass the Senate?  Sen. Tom Harkin told Bill Press, a liberal radio host, he's confident a public option could pass the full Senate. "I have polled senators, and the vast majority of Democrats — maybe approaching 50 — support a public option," Harkin said. "I believe we'll have the 60 votes, now that we have the new senator from Massachusetts, to at least get it on the Senate floor. [...] But once we cross that hurdle, we only need 51 votes for the public option. And I believe there are, comfortably, 51 votes for a public option."
  • Schumer Introduced More Viable Public Option  Cohn also notes that Sen. Schumer's version of the public option, though less optimal than Sen. Rockefeller's version, has a better chance of passing. "The odds are against enactment, particularly for the Rockefeller amendment," Cohn concedes. "But Schumer's, which is more or less identical to HELP's, may be able to get fifty votes. Then it becomes a question of whether moderate Democrats, even those voting against the public option, would break ranks and uphold a filibuster over it--and how much Democratic Party leaders, including the one sitting in the Oval Office, care about the one or two Republican votes they stand to lose over this issue."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.