There is a bit of news on health care today, which is that, by my count, 116 U.S. Representatives, most of whom are part of the House Progressive Caucus, have signed a letter (PDF) to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asking him to consider including a public option in the so-called "sidecar reconciliation" bill that would resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills:
In a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today, 120 House Democrats say the Senate should seize that opportunity and include a public option.
"This letter states loud and clear that the public option is gaining momentum and is alive and well in the eyes of the American public,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who organized the show of support along with Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). "Our job now is to convince Washington what the American people already know—that a public option is essential to challenging the insurance companies and ensuring the choice and competition we need to drive prices down."
The language of the letter is pretty clearly a request, not a demand. There is no "or else" clause, as in "or else, there will be no health care bill, because we’re not voting for it." As such, it is something that Reid will, I would guess, ignore. He’s in electoral trouble, and is probably looking for an exit strategy at the moment. Open Secrets puts Reid’s net worth at between $2.8M and $6.3M. Reid’s latest financial disclosure (PDF, and you might have to go through this page to get it) show that he might be able to live off what he owns, although I doubt he will. He has some fairly substantial investments in various municipal bonds. The interest from all of those might provide enough money for him to live on, if he were interested in living simply. His real estate holdings, the biggest of which appear to be his Las Vegas home, are somewhere between a third and a half of his portfolio. I’m willing to bet that Give ‘Em The Appearance of Hell Harry won’t be interested in living simply.
Incidentally, the uncertainty in the value of Reid’s portfolio is due to the way the forms are designed, rather than to the volatility of the value of those assets. The person filling out the form just checks a box that has the range of values closest to that holding. It stands to reason that Reid’s actual worth is somewhere in between the two extremes Open Secrets mentions, but there’s no way to tell from this form.
In short, he’ll probably need a job, and the most logical job is the sort that Tom Daschle had, lobbying for the kinds of folks who can pay big money for lobbyists. That means folks like drug companies and insurance companies. Reid isn’t going to take a dump in his lunch bucket to help the little people. While we would be better off without him in the Senate, he’s certainly going to try to cash in on his position while he can, and that means he’ll be screwing the rest of us.
So, while I appreciate the gesture, without a firm statement that progressive representatives will walk away, it is probably futile.
I look forward to being proved wrong. Go ahead, Congress. Do it.
Based on an earlier article at Slobber And Spittle.