The Public Option Is Dead

This has been written a hundred times in the past, but it was never clear that this was the case because we needed to be closer to the time that the bill was actually passed in order to know the politics of the situation.

There are not 60 votes for any kind of public option to get cloture. There may be 58 or even 59. Plus, the public option that remains is essentially garbage, and not at all what really is needed. It’s not worth giving away a bunch of junk concessions for. It would be better to instead—at the last moment—trade it away for open access to exchanges for everyone, instead of just a few people, along with better subsidies and revenues elsewhere in the bill.

If I thought the public option in the bill would easily be expanded through a 50-vote reconciliation bill in the future to make it more cost-effective, I wouldn’t support this idea, but at this point, too many senators have gone on the record opposing it and it’s water under the bridge that the strategy should have been gone about differently in the past. Neither this nor things like the Stupak amendment are worth sacrificing 98%–near universal coverage–for.

That would still be a better bill than HillaryCare was and better than the status quo.

What it would ultimately do in the future is not control costs as well as the public option would have, but there aren’t 60 votes for it and there won’t be in 2010, either. Not passing any bill also won’t get 60 votes, and may even endanger Democratic control of Congress.

The smart thing to do at this time is trade away the public option and try to get Snowe and Collins to vote for the rest of the bill and use that accomplishment to brag about in 2010 and 2012. Then, if costs continue to rise, and amendment can be tried.