One thing that that's clear from today's Finance Committee votes on the public option: Kent Conrad is the problem for the Dems. He provided the cover today for Lincoln, who was virtually invisible, to vote against the Schumer "level playing field" public option that would have done away with Conrad's supposed problem with Rockefeller's amendment--that it was tied to Medicare rates. If that was truly Conrad's big problem with the bill, he should have had no problem with Schumer's bill.
Obviously, he's the anti-public option problem in the Democratic caucus, if you take Baucus at his illogical word that he supports the public option, but had to vote against it because it didn't have enough votes. But, on the other side, the most conservative of the committees to take up healthcare reform had 10 Dems supporting some form of public option--that's more than I think anyone thought they'd get. Rockefeller told Ed Schultz today that he was suprised to have gotten eight votes for his.
Bottom line, the Finance Committee is going to pass out a bill without a public option, unless Rockefeller and Cantwell do indeed decide to oppose it and can find a third Dem (assuming Snowe will vote with the majority). But it's also coming out of SFC with a strong majority of Democrats who will vote for the public option on the floor.
Which leaves us with a couple of questions, as posed by Ezra:
There are two questions here. The first is "60 votes for what?" Do they not have 60 votes in favor of a health-care plan that includes a public option? Or do they not have 60 votes against a filibuster of a health-care plan that includes a public option? If it's the former, that's okay: You only need 51. If it's the latter, that's a bigger problem. But I'd be interested to hear which Democrats will publicly commit to filibustering Barack Obama's health-care reform bill. If that's such a popular position back home, why aren't more Democrats voicing it loudly?
Second, why give up the public option now? If these moderates want to kill the measure, let them get full credit for doing so on the floor. They can sponsor an amendment to strip it out of the final legislation and go home to their districts having played a clear and undeniable role in the elimination of the public option.
What Democrat is going to stand up and say out loud that he (or she) will join a filibuster with the Republicans against a public option? But they're getting the easy way out on that question, with Kent Conrad (and Max Baucus) to hide behind.
So what can progressives do? Progressives in the Senate need to take a page from their House colleagues. Tell Harry Reid and Max Baucus that there aren't 60 votes for public option-less bill. There are certainly more Democrats who support the public option than who do not. With that strong majority, Reid has no excuse not to be an enforcer over breaking a filibuster.
The other thing today demonstrated is that the Dems have 50 Dem votes for reconciliation. There's really not much of an excuse at this point for a public option NOT to be included in the bill Reid brings to the Senate floor. Particularly considering that it's going to be in the House version of the bill.