To listen to members of the news media, four senators hold the fate of the public option in their hands. But Lieberman’s threat to filibuster and Blanche Lincoln’s vow to stop it are actually nothing more than grandstanding politics. But reporters covering the health care debate are afraid to say so.
Mike Viequiera on MSNBC for example said that the Democrats need 60 votes to pass the bill –“do the math” he said. Well yes do the math, something Viequiera is obviously lousy at along with logic and common sense as are most members of the media.
The reality is the Democrats need 51 votes to pass it. They have 54-56 committed to it.
The 60 comes from the idea that Democrats need 60 to break a filibuster and that Lieberman, Lincoln, Nelson ( who has not said he would join a filibuster) and Carper might prevent the bill from coming to a floor vote by joining a filibuster.
But the chances of those Democrats joining a filibuster is highly unlikely. Lieberman would be stripped of his seniority and lose his chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee and probably get drummed out of the Democratic caucus.
Lincoln would be assured of defeat in 2010 because she would get no Democratic support and be treated as a pariah by the Democratic caucus and would be threatened by Reid overtly or subtlety, with not having any piece of legislation, no bill, no amendment, no earmarks, no nothing, for Arkansas ever coming to a vote. If she would prevent other senators from voting on the health care bill, it would cut both ways. Would she give all that up just to join a Republican filibuster? I doubt it.
Any of the four could speak out against it, vote against it and still go back to their constituents and say they voted against it and lose nothing in terms of their standing in the senate. Since Reid’s bill contains an opt out clause for states, the states of those four could opt out if that’s what they wanted. But a Democratic senator who would join a filibuster would be voting to prevent other senators from voting the wills of their constituents and that would be going too far. And would not go unpunished.
And lets not forget that if necessary the Democrats could invoke reconciliation, bypassing the Republican attempt at filibuster and giving Lincoln, Landrieau, Lieberman and Carper the worst of all possible worlds — destroying their effectiveness in the senate for the rest of their terms and for nothing.
Lieberman has made clear his opposition to the public option is based solely on his belief it would add to the debt. That doesnt sound plausible since the CBO has scored the bill and said it would actually reduce the defiict. If Lieberman has other numbers which shows the CBO is wrong he hasnt produced them. And if he simply distrusts the CBO he hasnt said that either. So it could be grandstanding to show his insurance company campaign contributors he is doing all he can. But in the end he is setting himself up to reverse his position if it can be shown unequivocally that the public option would not add to the debt.
Only a couple of months ago the news media proclaimed the public option dead. Brianna Keilar on CNN said it didn’t have a chance to even get this far, and the Baucus bill with no public option would be the one introduced in the senate. Similar ideas were mentioned by others in the press. They were all wrong. And so far nothing’s changed.