Short on votes, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has decided to go forward anyway with health reform legislation that would include setting up new flavor of the public health insurance option that liberals want as part of that bill.
The plan is known as "opt-out", because it would allow states to leave the national insurance plan.
"I believe it's an important way to insure competition and level the playing field for patients with the indusrance industry," Reid said at a Capitol news conference.
But right now, an "opt-out" version of the public option does not have the sixty votes needed to break what would be a certain filibuster, as even fellow supporters of Reid are acknowledging as much.
"Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told reporters Monday while traveling with Obama on Air Force One to Florida that he thinks it will be hard for Reid to muster 60 votes for a public option plan in which states can opt out. He said at least four key senators seem opposed," read a story from the Associated Press.
And from my time in the hallways of the Capitol, that seems about right.
Those against a public option would include Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
The consensus up here in the Press Gallery is that Landrieu is the most likely to fold, and go along with the Democratic leadership.
Bayh & Lieberman might as well, but they would have to get some assurances on cost and the deficit.
The joke about Ben Nelson of Nebraska is that he changes his position almost every time he does an interview on the subject, which is one reason why we all want to talk to him.
Lincoln seems the least likely to switch. She is up for re-election next year, and few can see her accepting a public option as part of health care reform.
And even Reid acknowledged that Sen. Snowe is against the public option, unless there is a "trigger."
One issue involved in this "opt-out" scenario will be any restrictions on states leaving the program for the first couple of years. That could also be a loser for some of those on-the-fence Senators.
One more thing is important here - this Senate bill is not finished.
What Reid did was send a range of options to the Congressional Budget Office for budget review.
After the CBO gives its analysis to Reid, then Democrats will decide what goes in the bill and what does not.
So, as of now, there is no "final" text of a bill to see.
That will still get the 'closed door' treatment.
Paging Dr. Transparency. Paging Dr. Transparency.
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