Friday, February 19, 2010

Life After Death For the Public Option?

Thanks to a letter written by Sen. Bennett of Colorado and the work of many progressive bloggers, there may be renewed hope for a public option:
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has signed a letter urging leadership to pass a public option via reconciliation, the 18th senator to do so.

Shaheen's office confirmed that she signed, following Sens. Chuck Schumer, Barbara Mikulski and Frank Lautenberg today.

The letter was written by Sen. Michael Bennet and will be sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Other signatories so far: Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT), Al Franken (MN), Patrick Leahy (VT), John Kerry (MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Jeff Merkley (OR), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Roland Burris (IL), Barbara Boxer (CA), Jack Reed (RI) and Tom Udall (NM).
The story here is that Chuck Schumer signed the letter. Schumer is a good barometer, because he's a member of the leadership and tends to associate himself only with efforts that have a chance of passing. If this was just a PR stunt or a pie in the sky attempt at the impossible, he would not have lent his name to the effort.

Also kind of shocking is really crappy senators like Diane Feinstein and Michael Bennet getting involved. Not sure what inspired them to temporarily to stop sucking but I don't really care either.

There have been conflicting reports on the White House's role and if they'd support this strategy. I'd put more stock in Sebelius' "Of course Obama supports the public option and would fight for it!" line if it didn't require me to ignore everything the White House did over the past year to remove it from the bill. The next meaningful backing Obama gives the public option will be the first, so I'm not too optimistic that this approach will get the administration's backing.

Still a long ways to go, but these are hopeful signs.

Go here to join the effort and see where your Senator stands.

Update: Reid seems at least open to the idea:
Senator Reid has always and continues to support the public option as a way to drive down costs and create competition. That is why he included the measure in his original health care proposal.

If a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care, Senator Reid will work with the White House, the House, and members of his caucus in an effort to craft a public option that can overcome procedural obstacles and secure enough votes.
Not exactly an endorsement, but a much better maybe than I had expected.


  1. that is great news! I was wondering how this could die with so much support for it. It is certainly needed too. I saw this episode of 30 days on hulu about trying to live on minimum wage, and it all seemed to be alright for them until they got their medical bills from the emergency room. It was something like 40$ for an ace-bandage and 500$ for an examination. ridiculous. the same thing happened to me when I went to the doctor long-term insurance. my short term only covered about 150$ so I ended up owing that asshole another 300$ out of my own pocket. and, all i did was talk to him for about 10 minutes.

    @JJ do you know anything about the health care bill pertaining to a mandate for businesses to provide healthcare to any employee working over 20 hours a week like they do in the state of Hawaii under the Prepaid Healthcare Act?

  2. are the dems realizing that they need to deliver something good if they want to save their own skins this fall? maybe they do have survival instincts, after all.

  3. @nimsofa: The employer mandate was one of the better parts of the bill, so as you'd expect it was one of the first things removed from the Senate bill. Right now it's in limbo with the rest of the bill (included in the good house bill, but not in the senate version), so it's anyone's guess how it ends up. Even if it gets included, I doubt the mandate would extend to anything as comprehensive as what Hawaii has.

    @JN: "are the dems realizing that they need to deliver something good if they want to save their own skins this fall?"

    This has always been the most confusing thing about this bill. Throughout the process, I never got any sense that the administration understands that the bill needs to be popular, not in a poll sense but in a "people need to look at the changes and say we made progress" way. Still not sure if they get it, but I think this is evidence that Pelosi and now Reid are on that page.