This weekend President Obama and the Kathleen Sebelius underestimated the public’s passion for the public option not only with progressives but with the mainstream public. It was simply a major blunder even if they were just trying to launch a trial balloon. This miscalculation may have come off the heels of the teabagger protests against any government run healthcare as their opposition has been magnified by the main stream media. Part of the problem is progressives had not matched the intensity of teabaggers until it looked like the white house was backing off the public option.
Following are high probability outcomes in the fight for the public option.
1. The president wants the public option in the final bill but will not veto a bill without the public option because he cannot be the one that fails at getting any universal healthcare reform passed again.
2. The House will pass a universal healthcare bill with a public option. The House has at least 64 members who are prepared to vote against universal healthcare reform without a public option.
3. In the first iteration the Senate will pass a bill without the public option to serve their corporate interests. So at least in the initial phase they can say they tried to fight the public option to their masters.
4. The House leadership with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer has more power than the Senate leadership with Senate Majority Leader Reid. From the stimulus to the climate and energy bill the House has lead the way.
The fundamentals of the fight for the public option has not changed.
Two different bills will enter the congressional reconciliation process. That is when we will see the monumental battle of wills begin. This is when President Obama needs to show real leadership and pick sides. He just will not be able to split the baby at this point. Frankly it is going to be much tougher for the white house if it chooses to side with the Senate because the Senate has weak leadership.
Laying out the possible scenarios with the universal healthcare bill there are several outcomes possible .
1. The House and Senate does not budge on their versions of the universal healthcare bills and nothing passes. This is likely the least probably scenario.
2. The House and Senate agree on passing a bill without the public option and some compromise, compromise (since the public option is already the first compromise) like co-ops that are either nationwide or regional. Actually a nationwide co-op is in essence a watered down public option but far more preferable over regional or state co-ops.
3. The House and Senate puts the universal healthcare reform bill with a public option up to debate and passes it with a 50 plus Biden majority if necessary through budget reconciliation. If Congress passes universal healthcare reform this way it will be messier than most people imagine because using budget reconciliation limits what can be put in the legislation. Basically all Congress can pass are bills containing appropriations and taxation so much of the new regulations regarding universal healthcare reform will need to come later.
“Here are a couple of possibilities for getting a bill passed:
A. The first is that conservative Senators are given a fig leaf compromise on the public option, so that they can say to people they forced a compromise, and then are brought over with all kinds of other incentives that make them more comfortable with the bigger bill.
B. The second is that the conference committee simply breaks the bill in half, one half being the less controversial part that everyone agrees upon, the other being the public option and the financing, both of which can go through the reconciliation process. Then Obama and Reid muscle the 50 votes they need for support.”
Robert Creamer paints an interesting picture of why the public option will be part of the universal healthcare bill.
1). A Public Option is the most elegant and politically viable solution to a major practical problem. Three basic models have been adopted by Western industrial nations to provide universal health care to their populations.
2). The politics of Congress and the White House. There are a couple of political givens:
“Both the White House and Democratic Leadership understand that they must pass health insurance reform. Defeat is simply not an option. Both the Carter and Clinton administrations foundered because they proposed major policy initiatives and failed to achieve them. The effect was to depress overall support for the President and Democratic Party. In 1994 it cost the Democratic Party the control of Congress when large numbers of Democratic Members (mostly moderates) lost their seats in the mid-term elections. These defeats crippled their ability go back to the political well for subsequent big initiatives.
So far this White House is batting 13 for 13 in major initiatives – but health care is by far the biggest of them all. The White House and Democratic Leadership will do whatever is necessary to win. Health care is their signature issue.
3). Inclusion of a public option is necessary to assure a mobilizable base to counterbalance a highly-motivated right wing and make passage of any health insurance reform possible. The public option has become an iconic symbol for Progressives. Without it, many would lose the passion that sends them to town meetings, phone banks and demonstrations. Without a public option to fuel this passion, the forces for reform would likely be overwhelmed by the shock troops of the right wing.
When you put all of these factors together, it is very likely that later this year President Obama will sign a health insurance reform bill into law that will indeed include a strong public option – not simply because the President clearly supports it, but also because of the practical policy and political considerations that make it critically necessary to success.”
The reason for my optimism has little to do with having trust in our politicians to do the right thing or not understanding the factors against the public option. Ironically my optimism is more based on my cynicism about the opposing self interests in Washington. The Senate are a bunch or mercenaries for profitcare. Which means when push coves to shove these mercenaries will back down when confronted with people who have principle. The basic fact is congresspeople who are for the pubic option have the moral clarity that paid off Senators do not have. The X factor is that the president needs to align himself with the true revolutionaries and not be loyal to the corporate crown who is trying to fight this revolution with paid Hessians.
Our role in this fight is the most simple in a way. We need to support people who are strongly for the public option. We need to constantly push people on the fence or who appear to be wavering to get a backbone and continue to support a public option. We need to defeat conservatives whether they be conservative Republicans OR Democrats who are against the public option.