Organizing for America (OFA) has a great tool to help you call your legislator and tell him to pass.the.damn.bill. It gives you the phone numbers you need and a script–a script with no mention of the public option. Good for OFA. Let me reiterate the reasons we should stop pushing for the public option:
To get it passed, the House will have to vote for the Senate version, and the House is insisting that before they vote for it, they get assurances that some fixes will be made afterwards in reconciliation. Those fixes include closing the donut hole, improving the excise tax portion, seeing to it that the exchanges have some national standards so the states can’t muck it up too bad, and maybe improving affordability. And Adam Green is saying that as long as fixes have to be made, the public option should also be on the list.
The problem is that House members will refuse to vote for the Senate version unless Reid assures them that he’s got fifty votes to get those fixes passed. The fifty votes for the public option are probably not there, and by continuing to encourage progressive House members to insist on that option, we risk having the whole endeavor collapse. It’s not going to be easy to get enough votes in the House, and as long as we encourage representatives who want a public option to hold out for that, we risk losing the vote in the House.
Why take that risk when, as a matter of fact, many progressive experts are saying that the Senate parliamentarian is more than likely going to rule that the public option does not even qualify for a vote under reconciliation. The parliamentarian will rule on that issue, and he may well rule against bringing it up for a reconciliation vote.
Now we’ve got progressives calling Claire to insist that she agree to vote for the public option. On the one hand, she’s got us mad at her over that issue, and on the other hand, she’s got the tea partiers mad that she’s backing the bill at all. She’d like nothing better than not to have to vote again on this issue. EVER. By not promising to vote for the public option in reconciliation, she might keep Reid from getting the fifty votes he needs to be able to promise to the House. And voila, the House refuses to vote for the Senate bill and Claire sees herself getting off the hook.
Russ Carnahan is a similar situation. He’s nervous. He’d rather not have to take another vote on this and give Ed Martin more electoral ammunition. That’s silly of course, because Martin will try to crucify him for the vote he’s already taken, but what I’m hearing is that he’s got cold feet. So again, it is counterproductive to urge him to insist on a public option. That just gives him an excuse to vote no on the Senate bill.
Now, a diarist at Kos clarifies the situation further, by pointing out that the House is in serious danger of not having the votes to pass the Senate bill. Some representatives will refuse to vote for it because the Senate bill weakens Stupak. Others will refuse, as they did on the original vote, because the bill wouldn’t be liberal enough for them even if it had a public option. The only way to replace those lost votes is to pull in the Democrats who voted against the House bill because it had a public option. The diarist begins with a video in which Tom Harkin, who prefers single payer and who strongly supported the public option, insists that we have to let it go now:
Tom Harkin, who succeeded the Late Ted Kennedy as the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee, was on MSNBC’s The Ed Show yesterday. Ed pushed Sen. Harkin on the matter of including a public option in the reconciliation sidecar to the health care legislation. Sen. Harkin, a strong supporter of the public option, insisted that it could not be included if it hurt the chances of the overall package, and indicated that including it would do exactly that.
So these are the basic facts here. The fear that the inclusion of a public option in the context of the current package and process (Senate bill plus reconciliation) may jeopardize the overall health reform legislation is real and legitimate. From what Sen. Harkin said, it’s not just the Senate that has a problem with the votes for the public option. The House might also. Ed brought up the fact that the House already passed the public option, so naturally, it follows that the House has the votes for it in reconciliation. Not so, said Harkin. The votes in the House included a group of Democrats who voted for the bill on the condition of the Stupak amendment, some of whom may peel off because the abortion language in the Senate bill is weaker than the House-passed bill. Since Stupak can’t be re-inserted via reconciliation – and who among us would want to, even if it could be? – several votes would be lost in the House because of that. Stupak himself is predicting a loss of about 10-12 votes because of the abortion language.
How do you make up those votes? You can’t make them up from I’m-so-pure-I-vote-with-Republicans Kucinich types who didn’t vote for the House bill because it wasn’t progressive enough. They are sure as hell not going to vote for a package that overall resembles the Senate bill more closely than the House bill. So where do you get the votes? You get it from Democrats who voted against the original House bill because, in their view, it was too liberal – mostly because it had the public option. If you want their vote, you have to take the public option out. And those more conservative Democrats will not vote to pass the Senate bill unless they are reassured that the public option won’t be put back in using reconciliaiton. Maybe this is why only 120 House Democrats signed the letter asking for a public option in reconciliation.
Speaker Pelosi knows this. That is why she has repeatedly said that the public option will not likely make it into a reconciliation bill (and thus the overall healthcare package). And now, she has confirmed it once again by saying that it’s now off the table.