Reconciliation and the Public Option
Democratic leaders have claimed that they would have had a government run health insurance alternative (the so-called “Public Option”) if only those mean Republicans weren’t there to filibuster. But Glenn Greenwald believes this was a sham.
But all those claims were put to the test — all those bluffs were called — once the White House decided that it had to use reconciliation to pass a final health care reform bill. That meant that any changes to the Senate bill (which had passed with 60 votes) — including the addition of the public option — would only require 50 votes, which Democrats assured progressives all year long that they had. Great news for the public option, right? Wrong. As soon as it actually became possible to pass it, the 50 votes magically vanished. Senate Democrats (and the White House) were willing to pretend they supported a public option only as long as it was impossible to pass it. Once reconciliation gave them the opportunity they claimed all year long they needed — a “majority rule” system — they began concocting ways to ensure that it lacked 50 votes.
It may well be that there were never 50 votes for public option. Indeed, I tend to agree with Greenwald that there weren’t.
But even the most creative advocates of the reconciliation process don’t argue that it could be used to force a straight majority vote one something that far removed from budget and tax policy. This isn’t eliminating some pork barrel projects needed to get Ben Nelson’s votes or striking language preventing insurance companies from covering abortions but a massive new program.