So the public option is on the comeback trail. Or is it?
With 18 Senators now signed on to the letter urging leadership support of an effort to bring the public option to the floor under reconciliation procedures, things are either looking up for the popular plan's prospects, or else everyone's out looking for a freebie, hoping to snap up some progressive creds by signing on to an effort that's both doomed and the death of which can be blamed on the Senate's nonpartisan parliamentarian.
In the scenario where they're punking us, it's win-win in terms of the politics of it for the Senators. As long as there aren't 51 signatories and nobody thinks there ever will be, anyone who wants to look progressive but doesn't particularly care for the public option can sign on and be in no danger of being called upon to live with the consequences. And if they get 51, well then, what the hell? Go pass it. You've got all the cover in the world.
But even with 51 votes, it'd have to get past the parliamentarian first, and that's not such a sure thing. But even if it doesn't, that's just more win for Senators who need to look pro-public option but don't really want to have to vote for it. "Gosh, we really wanted to do it -- you saw me sign the letter! But that darn parliamentarian!"
That assumes a startling level of cynicism, of course. There's really not all that much reason to believe there are many Democratic Senators who really do secretly dislike the notion of a public option and who fear just coming right out and saying so.
And even if it's all somehow an act, it's still worth it all by itself when you look back at the conventional wisdom from not that long ago, which was that there was simply no way of even contemplating passing a public option in the Senate, and reconciliation was out of the question.
Oh, and one last point, too. The latest signatory to the letter is Chuck Schumer, who also happens to be Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. Now, the Rules Committee in the Senate doesn't play the same critical role as the Rules Committee in the House. And the endorsement of the idea of passing a public option under reconciliation procedures by the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee isn't by itself dispositive on the question of whether it passes parliamentary muster. But it doesn't hurt things, that's for sure.
So those of you who might've been stung in the past by being called a DFH for thinking it was worth advocating using reconciliation to pass not only a "fix" for the old Senate version of the health insurance reform bill, but perhaps taking a second crack at the public option as well, take heart. If you're wrong, at least you're in good company.