Public Option Vote In Moments
John Kerry just laid down the real killer argument in this whole debate - those opposed to the public option are fearful that it would be too successful and Americans would like it too much. They're protecting insurance industry profits over serving their constituents. Given how good Kerry is at talking about the public option, I'm wondering why he barely said a word about health care during the 2004 campaign. He could have been President if he managed to wind up this kind of moral authority.
We'll have a vote shortly...
...Max Baucus will vote against the amendment because he has to protect his bill and he doesn't think that the public option can get 60 votes. Well, with him voting against it, of course it won't get 60 votes! That is a total cop-out. He's also saying "Rome wasn't built in a day" and we have to start laying the foundation for health care reform, alluding to the notion that it could be added later. His argument is a total process argument to protect insurance industry profits.
...Rockefeller NAILS Baucus. "We shouldn't say that process makes more difference than people. I don't buy it when somebody says, 'I just want a health care bill, I don't care what's in it.'" Rockefeller says he's astounded that Republicans are satisfied with $480 billion dollars in new subsidies being given to insurance companies, on top of everything they're already getting. Money spent on health insurance companies and not people's care. "What is wrong with giving people a choice?"
The final vote in this committee will reflect the opinion of 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans. In the Senate we have 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans. This is not a representative sample.
Rockefeller says "If they (Republicans) want to talk about sliding to a single-payer system, there's no better way to get there than to do nothing."
...Rockefeller: "The public option is on the march."
Here's the vote on the Rockefeller amendment: Rockefeller, Aye; Conrad, No; Bingaman, Aye; Kerry, Aye; Lincoln, No; Wyden, Aye; Schumer, Aye; Stabenow, Aye; Cantwell, Aye; Bill Nelson, No; Menendez, Aye; Carper, No; Grassley, No; Hatch, No, Snowe; No; Kyl, No; Bunning, No; Crapo, No; Roberts, No; Ensign, No; Enzi, No; Cornyn, No; Baucus, No.
8 Ayes, 15 Nos. Conrad, Lincoln, Bill Nelson, Carper and Baucus have been ferreted out. We'll see if anyone flips on the Schumer "level playing field" amendment.
...Bill Nelson just agreed to vote for Chuck Schumer's "level playing field" amendment. And during Schumer's remarks, he thanked Tom Carper for helping "move us toward consensus." So we may pick up a couple votes here. Of course, the "level playing field" amendment, which doesn't tie a public option to Medicare rates, saves $85 billion less over 10 years than the Rockefeller amendment.
This pretty much confirms that there are at least 50 votes in the Senate for a triggerless public option, based on past whip counts.
...Kent Conrad saying that the Schumer amendment reflects a "significant improvement" on the Rockefeller amendment... so will he vote for it? I'm thinking no. "The place where we still have a difference is whether the non-profit option is run by the government." He's sticking with his crappy co-ops. Conrad says that Schumer is moving much closer to package that can get 60 votes on the floor, but he won't help move it, of course.
...Schumer amendment vote coming right up. Max Baucus once again says that "the public option can't get 60 votes, so I won't vote for it." It's the "innocent bystander" theory of government. Why, if only a Senator like Max Baucus had a vote on the bill, surely it could attract the necessary votes!
..here's the vote: Schumer Aye; Rockefeller Aye; Bingaman Aye; Kerry Aye; Cantwell Aye; Stabenow Aye; Wyden Aye; Menendez Aye; Bill Nelson Aye; Baucus No; Conrad No; Carper Aye; Lincoln No; All R's no.
So Carper and Nelson flipped. Amendment fails 10-13. Only Lincoln, Conrad and Baucus against it.
...In the end, I'd say this is a pretty good outcome for the hopes for a public option, actually. Ron Wyden, Tom Carper and Bill Nelson are now on the record supporting a Schumer-like public option. Add that to Chris Bowers' whip count and the Washington Independent whip count, along with Paul Kirk coming out in favor, along with Claire McCaskill, and you have 50 definite yes votes, plus 1 (Mark Warner) who says that he wouldn't vote against the bill if a public option was in there. Mark Begich is a lean yes, as is Jon Tester and Mark Pryor, but you don't even need them. 51 votes are secured for some type of public option. So you could pass a public option through reconciliation as a pure deficit reduction play and would be assured, 100%, of 51 votes at a minimum.
There will be a fight for another day.