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August 16, 2009

The Beginning Of The End? Leading Senate Democrat Says Public Option Doesn't Have The Votes UPDATE: Sebelius Walks Back From Public Option

Don't get cocky but the walk back on health care may have begun.

Momentum behind a new government-run health care plan appeared to slow considerably Sunday, as a lead Democratic negotiator called the option a "wasted effort" and President Obama's health secretary suggested the White House is ready to accept a health care reform package without it.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., one of six negotiators trying to hammer out a bipartisan compromise measure on the Senate Finance Committee, told "FOX News Sunday" that the so-called public option simply does not have the votes to pass.

"The fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option. There never have been," he said. "So to continue to chase that rabbit I think is just a wasted effort."

Yes, they can pass some elements of the package on a simple majority vote through 'reconciliation' but there are limits to what can be voted on by that process. Harry Reid and company may want to press those limits but if they succeed they will blow up the Senate and bring it to a grinding halt.

Before we get too excited keep in mind Democrats (and some of the usual suspect Republicans) can still do a lot of damage to the health care system without a public option but dropping this major provision will not only be good policy but great politics for those who don't want the government mucking things up.

Health care reform is one of those issues that a lot of people are for in the abstract. The problem is many groups have very different ideas of what is desirable in a bill and they are often contradictory.

Up until now, it's been mostly the deficit hawks and small government types objecting. Take out the public option and you start to shed liberal support. Pretty soon there's no one left supporting anything.

Also fun...the rift between the House and Senate Democrats. After walking the plank on Cap and Trade only to see the Senate walk away, House Democrats can't be too happy with their colleagues in 'the other body' for not being able to get this done, despite having 60 votes.

It's pretty amusing watching the signature issue of the Democrats become a self inflicted wedge issue. And we may even get the right policy outcome as well.

That really is Change! I can believe in.

UPDATE: Sebelius also retreated on the public option today saying it's "not the essential element" of reform. Yeah, try telling that to the nutroots (aka, Obama's base).

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posted by DrewM. at 12:32 PM

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