With over 500 amendments to wade through and each amendment taking about an hour to debate, the Senate Finance Committee is never going to complete their mark-up of the health care bill unless chairman Max Baucus brings the shithammer down on Republican obstruction. Ordinarily, I’d be skeptical about Baucus’s willingness to do so, but the sheer magnitude of the GOP’s dilatory tactics is going to force his hand.
Tomorrow, the Finance Committee will hold votes on the Public Option. Most people assume that Tom Carper of Delaware, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Chairman Baucus of Montana are going to vote against the amendments. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas may vote against them, as well. No more than one Democrat on the committee can vote against the Public Option or those amendments will fail.
Of course, if the Public Option somehow passed through the Finance Committee, it would stun Washington DC and the punditocracy. Perhaps for that reason it would be a shrewd move. After all this time talking about how the Public Option is dead and debating the foolish idea of co-ops, to see the Democrats go all-in on the Public Option would sandbag the GOP and shift all the momentum in the president’s direction. Don’t hold your breath, though. I think the whip count on this is fairly accurate.
It looks like the House is going to pass a very good bill (under the circumstances) and that the Senate is going to pass a piece of crap. There is still a chance that the House Bill will emerge as the foundational piece of the health care legislation. For that to happen, the White House has to do two things. They have to support the House version in the Conference Committee, and they have to threaten to severely punish any Democrat who refuses to vote for cloture in the Senate. That means that Rahm Emanuel has to threaten to take away Kent Conrad’s chairmanship of the Budget Committee and Joe Lieberman’s chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee and Mary Landrieu’s chairmanship of the Small Business Committee, etc.
There is no doubt that this can be done. And, no, it isn’t up to Rahm. He has a boss. His boss will tell him what to do.
We could still get a public option at the 60-vote threshold. In fact, the chances look better right now than they have all year. Let’s just hope that Obama has been keeping his powder dry for this moment.