This is the new reality on Capitol Hill:
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she won’t be able to pass health-care legislation in her chamber if the measure doesn’t include a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers.
"There’s no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option," Pelosi, a California Democrat, said at a press conference in San Francisco today....
Obama today reiterated his support for the proposal.
"If we have a public option in there it will help keep insurance companies honest," he told a group of community volunteers in Washington.
Pelosi is bargaining. Good for her and good for the Progressive Block that has allowed her to do it. At Talk Left, Big Tent Democrat has been writing some smart stuff on the Madman Theory of Political Bargaining, using the Nixon cold war strategy that demonstrating a willingness to consider "madness" in action would provide you with negotiating leverage. Today he writes:
When will we know whether a firm stand on the public option will mean no health care reform bill and what exactly the best offer will be on health care reform? Well, it sure is not now. Think of Kent Conrad as the party across the table in this negotiation. Or even Barack Obama. How do you negotiate with them? You tell them, and mean it, that you will not vote for a health care reform proposal that does not include a robust public option. You protest that you have already made the biggest concession anyone has made in the entire process - single payer. You ask for their best offer.
Before you ask for anything more show me what you have on the table. Right now, NOTHING is on the table from Conrad and Baucus. NOTHING. There is no reason to be even talking about what the Progressive Block should be considering.
So right now, absent a proposal from Baucus and Conrad, the Progressive Block holds the bulk of the chips--there are enough of them to call the shots, and they are using that negotiating position exactly as they should be. Good for them, and good for Pelosi for strengthening their hand.