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Hot Potato Game Returns to Washington as Obama Kicks Public Option Back to Reid

Robert Gibbs justified the lack of a public option in the health care reform bill today by laying it at the feet of Harry Reid.

The White House says it’s up to Harry Reid whether the Senate votes on the public option […]

White House press secretary Robert Gates [sic. should read: Gibbs] said today that the White House will leave that up to the Senate Majority Leader.

“I think they’ve asked for a vote on the floor of the Senate, and that’s certainly up to those who manage those amendments and up to Leader Reid,” Gibbs said.

We have seen this before during the health care debate. The House says it’s up to the Senate to determine what can pass. The Senate says it’s up to the White House to expend the political capital to get it across the line. And the White House punts it right back to Congress. Nobody wants to actually be responsible for the demise of the popular measure, but everyone wants to be on its side. Therefore you get the preposterous claim from Dan Pfeiffer today that the President didn’t include a public option in his proposal, but he supports it.

To this point, all of this has been predictable. However, Reid’s rising chances to actually win re-election in Nevada may offer a glimmer of hope. A new statewide poll shows that the inclusion of a Tea Party candidate as a third option in the race bring Reid well within striking distance, actually within the margin of error. Sue Lowden only leads 42-37 over Reid, with Tea Party candidate Jon Ashjian at 9%. With Danny Tarkanian it’s even closer, with Reid down 40-39 and Jon Ashjian at 11%. Reid is at 58% disapproval in the poll and clearly tops out around 40% support, but that may actually become a winning number, given the third-party pull and the likely success of Reid spending untold millions on the race. A public option push – it would have to actually be successful this time – in a state where the public option holds much higher support than the overall bill – could put Reid over the top.

That’s probably not an insignificant factor in his decision-making. But the whip count would probably have to reach a critical mass to bring that back into play. Reid’s probably just hoping for a positive effect to getting something, anything done, enough to make him competitive in Nevada again.

UPDATE: If you want to read tea leaves, Reid just announced the list of attendees for Thursday’s health summit. . .

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin
Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer
Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray
Senator Max Baucus, Senate Finance Committee Chairman
Senator Chris Dodd, Senate Banking Committee Chairman
Senator Tom Harkin, Senate HELP Committee Chairman
Senator Jay Rockefeller, Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care Chairman
Senator Kent Conrad, Senate Budget Committee Chairman

The relevant chairmen we expected. Rockefeller is positive, but given his subcommittee, also expected.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Hot Potato Game Returns To Washington As Obama Kicks Public Option Back To Reid

Robert Gibbs justified the lack of a public option in the health care reform bill today by laying it at the feet of Harry Reid.

The White House says it’s up to Harry Reid whether the Senate votes on the public option […]

White House press secretary Robert Gates said today that the White House will leave that up to the Senate Majority Leader.

“I think they’ve asked for a vote on the floor of the Senate, and that’s certainly up to those who manage those amendments and up to Leader Reid,” Gibbs said.

We have seen this before during the health care debate. The House says it’s up to the Senate to determine what can pass. The Senate says it’s up to the White House to expend the political capital to get it across the line. And the White House punts it right back to Congress. Nobody wants to actually be responsible for the demise of the popular measure, but everyone wants to be on its side. Therefore you get the preposterous claim from Dan Pfeiffer today that the President didn’t include a public option in his proposal, but he supports it.

To this point, all of this has been predictable. However, Reid’s rising chances to actually win re-election in Nevada may offer a glimmer of hope. A new statewide poll shows that the inclusion of a Tea Party candidate as a third option in the race bring Reid well within striking distance, actually within the margin of error. Sue Lowden only leads 42-37 over Reid, with Tea Party candidate Jon Ashjian at 9%. With Danny Tarkanian it’s even closer, with Reid down 40-39 and Jon Ashjian at 11%. Reid is at 58% disapproval in the poll and clearly tops out around 40% support, but that may actually become a winning number, given the third-party pull and the likely success of Reid spending untold millions on the race. A public option push – it would have to actually be successful this time – in a state where the public option holds much higher support than the overall bill – could put Reid over the top.

That’s probably not an insignificant factor in his decision-making. But the whip count would probably have to reach a critical mass to bring that back into play. Reid’s probably just hoping for a positive effect to getting something, anything done, enough to make him competitive in Nevada again.

UPDATE: If you want to read tea leaves, Reid just announced the list of attendees for Thursday’s health summit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin
Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer
Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray
Senator Max Baucus, Senate Finance Committee Chairman
Senator Chris Dodd, Senate Banking Committee Chairman
Senator Tom Harkin, Senate HELP Committee Chairman
Senator Jay Rockefeller, Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care Chairman
Senator Kent Conrad, Senate Budget Committee Chairman

The relevant chairmen we expected. Rockefeller is positive, but given his subcommittee, also expected.

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David Dayen

David Dayen