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Rachel Maddow Gets a Clue on Who Killed the Public Option

Watching Rachel Maddow’s recent reporting on efforts to create momentum to include a public option in the health care reconciliation, I had assumed she realized Congress was just pretending and only a miracle would get them to behave responsibly.

But Friday night’s discussion suggested Rachel did not know, or had forgotten, that neither the Senate nor the White House ever seriously considered allowing a public option to be part of the reform bills.

Chris Hayes correctly described the scene as a game of Clue, in which the game is structured to conceal who killed the idea. But unlike the board game in which you gradually eliminate suspects, Congress the leadership seems dead set on making everyone in the Democratic Party look guilty.

We have the Speaker of the House unable to explain why, when she controls the content of the initial reconciliation bill, she can’t include the public option because the Senate won’t vote for it.

We have the Majority Whip in the Senate issuing conflicting clarifications that it will whip for a bill without the PO, or no, with the PO, even as the Senators secretly urge Ms. Pelosi not to force them to vote either way.

And we have the President of the United States hiding from his own dishonesty in both publicly promoting the idea with his supporters while directing his aides to prevent it from ever coming to pass.

I guess next we’ll hear it was Jane Hamsher, in the blogger room, with the whip.

It’s all disheartening to watch. I’m frankly more sympathetic to the predicament imposed on Nancy Pelosi by this unprincipled White House and the feckless Senate leadership. But make no mistake. Not one of the Democratic leaders in Congress or the White House has been honest or courageous enough to be straight with us. Is it too much to ask they stop lying?

The current plan is for the House to take a dive. They’re expected to vote for an unpopular Senate bill at the risk of their careers. In exchange, they get to vote on a reconciliation fix they fear will not be sufficient to save them, while leaving out key elements they know they’ll need to sell the plan.

They know most of the "liberal" Obama supporters expect them, not the Senate, to take the risks, since no one is demanding the Senate pass the original House bill and fix that if needed. Once they adopt the Senate bill, House members have no assurance the Senate will follow through and enact the promised fix, and they suspect many in the Senate, and probably the White House, don’t care if the House takes the hit.

The truth is, the Senate and White House will force the liberal House to bear all the risks, but no matter what happens, Rahm Emanuel will call it a "win."

Rachel is right: Nancy Pelosi should call the bluff and put a strong PO — a Medicare buy-in available through the exchanges — in her reconciliation bill. Then let the White House carry the burden and the risks of getting its signature agenda proposal through the Senate. That would be a great "win" for Rahm and his boss, but they need to earn it.

File under Amazing Kreskin:
Jane, Countdown to Lieberman
Jane, Obama passes the public option hot potato
Jane, Steny Hoyer passes the hot potato

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley