The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports Harry Reid is just one or two senators away from securing the 60 votes he needs to defeat a Republican filibuster of a health care reform measure containing an opt-out public option. If Reid does manage to get 60 votes against a GOP filibuster, he'll only need 50 votes to secure passage of the underlying bill, thanks to Vice President Joe Biden's tie-breaking vote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is just one or two Senate votes shy of having a filibuster-proof majority in favor of a public option for health insurance coverage with a provision allowing states to opt-out, multiple sources tell the Huffington Post.
The Nevada Democrat, according to Hill sources, is furiously working the phones today to ensure that 60 Senators (including him) will back the provision. The work will continue through the weekend and comes despite reports that the president prefers a public option that would be triggered in by economic conditions over the "opt-out" alternative.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the lone congressional Republican to hint that she would support health care reform, favors the trigger proposal and has said she would oppose the opt-out version. The White House, Democratic sources say, is keen on ensuring there is bipartisan support for the final package -- which would explain its support for the trigger proposal.
"He certainly didn't embrace it and he seemed to indicate a preference for continuing to work on a strategy that involved Senator Snowe and a trigger," said a senior Democratic source who was briefed on the meeting. A second aide whose boss was in the room confirmed the general nature of the exchange.
Reid's progress on the opt-out public option is bad news for the so-called Snowe Trigger. As noted earlier today, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett rejected claims from anonymous sources that President Obama supports the Snowe Trigger, and if Reid does manage to get 60 votes against a Republican filibuster of the opt-out public option, that should be enough to kill off discussion of the Snowe Trigger completely.
It's important to draw a distinction here between the cloture vote and the vote on final passage. They are not one and the same. For example, in 2003, 70 senators voted for cloture on Bush's prescription drug bill, thereby averting a filibuster, but only 54 voted for final passage. Republicans will certainly try to blur the distinction between the procedural cloture vote and the vote on final passage, but one need look no further than the prescription drug coverage bill to see that such arguments are bunk.
Meanwhile, on the House side, TPM reports that many members are remaining undecided on which version of the public option they support. On the face of it, this may seem alarming, but it's worth keeping in mind that that House members may be waiting to see what Reid manages to accomplish before deciding how they will vote. That being said, we can't just kick back and relax. Now is the time to keep up the pressure -- but it's also time to keep up the faith that we can get this done.