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Rumor: Public Option To Be Left Out Of Merged Senate Bill

David Herszenhorn quotes anonymous Senate aides saying that the merged bill may not include a public option:

Democratic aides say that Senate leaders working with the White House to meld the two bills are inclined to leave the public option out and to let supporters propose amendments to add it during floor debate.

At a rowdy caucus lunch on Thursday, Senate Democrats expressed deep divisions over the issue, with liberals arguing loudly in favor of a public plan and centrists arguing against it.

Left out of this story is the fact that any amendment to the bill on the Senate floor would in all likelihood need a cloture vote – in other words, 60 votes – in order to pass. Therefore the placement of the public option inside or outside of the merged bill is crucial, as there are probably not 60 votes to either insert it or remove it from the legislation. So allowing an amendment as a “compromise” is not really a compromise at all.

As Congressional expert David Waldman explains, supporters of the public option allowed the process to move forward in the Senate Finance Committee by voting for a bill without a public option in it, but detractors feel no such compunction to move the process forward by allowing cloture on a bill with the public option instead of joining a Republican-led filibuster

When it’s time to pass conservative bullshit legislation “to keep the process moving,” progressives are expected to take one for the team. But when it comes time to pass legislation that the majority of the caucus supports, but it’s more liberal, guess what? Conservatives want progressives to take another for the team.

And everyone expects that they will, too. Even if it means going back on everything they said they would stand firm on in this bill. And all in the name of “moving the process forward.”

Gosh, isn’t that just so interesting how that works?

One day, if progressives want to be taken seriously in this game, it’s going to have to change.

Even now, ConservaDems are planting stories suggesting without saying firmly that they wouldn’t enact cloture on a health care bill with a public option, in particular Joe Lieberman. I guess “moving the process forward” isn’t in their vocabulary.

This is what is meant by the silent filibuster.

UPDATE: Lieberman tells the New Haven Register that he is “inclined” to invoke cloture, but “I haven’t decided yet.” Of course, as soon as he decides, he loses his leverage to get goodies out of the bill.

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David Dayen

David Dayen