Public Option: This had BETTER not be true

Is Obama selling out his strongest supporters on the public option ort-out to curry favor with the insurers and Pharma?

Mark has always been the optimist around here, especially about Obama, and I have always been the pessimist.  So it’s no surprise that he is celebrating what is going on in the health care negotiations.

That was yesterday.  Now, Brian Beutler reports that the White House is actually trying to kill the public option opt-out in the Senate negotiations, because it is so committed to getting Olympia Snowe’s vote that it would not mind having a worse bill — even if there are 60 Democratic votes for cloture.

If this is true — and it is a big “if” -then it is an absolute outrage.  It might be a feint; it might be a test to see if progressives really care about this; it might be trying to signal how much they want Republican votes; it might be Rahm Emanuel deciding that insurers and Pharma are more important than the under- and uninsured.   I don’t know.  Don’t tell me about tactical conservatism about getting 60 Democratic votes for cloture; that can come if a real public option fails cloture, in which case a floor amendment can pass.)

But if it is true, it would constitute a grotesque sell-out of Obama’s most dedicated supporters.  It would certainly not be change we can believe in.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

7 thoughts on “Public Option: This had BETTER not be true”

  1. If this is true, then I don't understand Obama's motivation. If he gets one Republican vote, that hardly makes it a bipartisan bill — even apart from the fact that it would be one Republican vote for a weakened bill. What good would Snowe's vote do for Obama?

  2. One more question: Why should the Senate do what Obama wants rather than what they want? Have they forgotten that he works for a different branch of the government? Or are they emulating the Republicans in Congress, who blindly did Bush's bidding?

  3. Why does the Senate do what Obama wants rather than what they want?

    Because they have forgotten that the Legislative branch is a coequal branch of the government. I blame eight years of Republican sycophancy to Bush fils for this.

    In my mind, Rahm Emmanuel and Kathleen Sibelius have less than no business in the Conference committee that's going to decide what we're going to get for health insurance reform. Please note that I'm calling it health insurance reform rather than health care reform. Health care reform hasn't been on the table at all.

  4. well i can't imagine a worse outcome than a 59-40 vote.

    i have trouble imagining that an improved public option won't get put into the reconciled budget before the decade is out

  5. My only doubt in all of this is why Rockefeller would come out and say what he said. It just doesn't make sense. What would prompt him to say this? He's trying to downplay the importance of Snowe's vote, but why now and why not handle this internally? Strange.

  6. I'll agree with yoyo. Since the House version almost certainly will have a public option, it's unlikely that a public option will not make it into the reconciled bill. Since you can't add amendments to a bill after the reconciliation process, it's much more difficult to filibuster whatever emerges. But if they get Snowe's vote, it lessens the power of other centrist Democrats and takes pressure off them.

    As far as why Rockefeller would do this, maybe to make Obama appear more pragmatic to moderate conservatives? Also, this might slightly reduce Snowe's standing among Maine voters, who are supportive of the public option.

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