Chuck Schumer is probably the Democrat on the Finance Committee that Obama should be listening to, instead of wasting his time on Baucus. After all, Schumer's the guy (update: formerly--brain cramp) tasked with keeping--and increasing--the Democratic majority in the Senate. In this instance, he's reading the political tea-leaves correctly. Comprehensive healthcare reform, that expands access, provides universal and affordable coverage, and that reins in the massive growth in insurance premiums and health related costs requires a strong public option. Beyond that, it's what large majorities of the American people consistently say they want.
Go figure. Anyway, here's Schumer this week, forcefully pushing the "go it alone" for a good bill effort.
Brian Beutler asks if his colleagues "are game":
On Meet the Press this Sunday, he told David Gregory that Democrats are "considering alternatives" including "getting 60 Democratic votes and maybe an occasional Republican here or there on a bill [and] looking at reconciliation."
And, according to Greg Sargent, "Schumer has also told colleagues he believes political work has to be done in advance to sell "reconciliation" by persuading voters that the GOP is wholly opposed to reform of any."
The questions now are, how many colleagues is he pushing, and how receptive are they to his suggestions? In other words, is he going to be able to pull enough Democrats together to get the party to switch gears completely and back a Democrat only solution to the health care impasse?
If you judge by Bowers' public option whip count among the Senate, where he's got 45 definites yeses on a public option, and 16 maybes, the chances seem good to me for leadership to be able to pull enough Dems together to do this. (BTW, Kent Conrad, where are you getting your whip count?)
Schumer also has an ally in the House, in the form of Rep. Anthony Weiner:
"We need some adult supervision, so we need the House to act," Weiner said during an appearance on MSNBC. "Honestly, this is getting ridiculous over there."
Weiner's words reflect a growing frustration with the Senate for not having moved forward on healthcare, letting members of the Senate Finance Committee continue to try to cobble together a reform bill by mid-September.
The New York liberal decried a "vacuum" of leadership during the August congressional recess, and called on the House to move forward to fill the void....
Weiner called on President Obama to make his own position more clear as the health debate progresses, too.
"I think the time has come for the president to say here's why we need it and here's what it is," he said. "We need to the president to be very clear what he wants, and then we'll do it."
I disagree with Weiner on one thing--yes, the Senate needs adult supervision, but it doesn't have to be the House. It should President Obama, it's time he got his hands dirty in this debate and started twisting some arms, because this goes down, it's on him. However, Harry Reid doesn't need to wait for Obama to start the ball rolling.