On Tuesday the Senate Finance Commitee, the last of the five panels in Congress to consider a health overhaul bill and generally recognized as a proxy to the Senate’s final vote tally, struck down two amendments to include a government health insurance plan (commonly referred to as the “public option”) in its sweeping health bill.
Although the other four commitee measures currently include a public plan, many commentators identified yesterday’s vote as the key marker of both the fate of a public option and the Democrats’ ability to coalesce around the current proposals to successfully pass a bill.
Philip Klein of the American Spectator predicts a tough road ahead for liberals:
Thus, the whole health care fight may hinge on whether the White House will be able to get liberal lawmakers to drop their demands for a government plan. This is problematic. The reason is that one of the most obvious ways to win over liberals would be to increase the level of subsidies to individuals seeking to purchase health insurance, yet doing so would substantially drive up the cost of legislation. President Obama has boxed himself into a corner on that front by declaring that his plan would cost $900 billion, and by vowing to veto any bill that adds to the deficit.
But some offer a glimmer of hope within the gloom and doom. Katherine Mangu-Ward of Reason tips her hat to The Princess Bride, quoting Miracle Max to illustrate the state of a public option: “It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”
The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn reacts, “This is not the slightest bit surprising. But it’s still frustrating.” But he sides with the “slightly alive” interpretation of the public plan’s prognosis:
The odds are against enactment, particularly for the Rockefeller amendment. But Schumer’s, which is more or less identical to HELP’s, may be able to get fifty votes. Then it becomes a question of whether moderate Democrats, even those voting against the public option, would break ranks and uphold a filibuster over it–and how much Democratic Party leaders, including the one sitting in the Oval Office, care about the one or two Republican votes they stand to lose over this issue.
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein thinks moderates compromised too much by voting no on the public option amendment and will need to make other concessions before the bill is finished:
Now the moderate bloc will need to extract something else in an eleventh-hour bargain to show that they applied their centrist convictions to the legislation. Baucus makes it sound as though he’s attempting to ensure a deal. But in reality, he’s just depriving the centrists of the ability to make their deal. That means they’ll have to make a different one, and the bill will get worse twice rather than once.
Heritage’s Matt Spalding responds to Democrat Jay Rockefeller’s assertion that Adam Smith would have supported a public option:
But does Rockefeller seriously think Adam Smith’s principles are consistent with the government-run healthcare? This view depends on the patently false idea that competition would be enhanced by the addition of a new player – the government – in the insurance market. The problem is that government, by definition, isn’t just another economic player, and will always tend to want to control markets for its political purposes. That threatens economic as well as political liberty. (Hmmm . . . isn’t this why we favor free markets in the first place?)
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey thinks it’s that the amendments were potentially “offered as distraction” from the possibility that a public plan option will be reinserted in conference:
This won’t be the last attempt to attach a public option to the bill, but the rest will probably have as much success. It’s far more likely to get added into a conference report when both chambers pass their versions of ObamaCare, and it’s just as likely that Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer offered this as a distraction from that effort.
Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky doesn’t disagree, outlining how a public option could reemerge during conference of the House and Senate bills:
Once in conference, negotiators will have to reconcile the Senate bill with its far more progressive House conterpart (which will include some kind of public plan). Should Reid and Pelosi stack the committee with public option advocates like Rockefeller, Schumer, or Schakowsky, the option will live another day — no Democrat would vote against a health care package simply because it includes a public option that attracts some 10 million enrollees. Conversely, if likely conferees Baucus and Conrad feel ‘constrained’ to vote with Republicans, the option will likely die.
At left-leaning supersite Huffington Post, Mike Lux says the public option remains “very much alive,” and continues, “getting 10 votes on this is promising for those of us who believe a public option is essential.” Another post by main politics reporter Ryan Grim announcing the outcome of the vote has garnered a whopping 18,000 comments.
And of course, there’s tons of chatter on Twitter.