Today in Politico, a "House leadership official" says that liberals will get a kabuki vote on a public plan when the health care bill goes through the House the first time, but when it comes out of conference without one, they’ll fall into line:

“The liberals (around 100-plus) won’t allow it. It if comes back from conference committee without public option and there is the right pitch that it is this or nothing, then it may pass the House.”

Translation:  Don’t worry AHIP, you’re safe with us, this is all just theater.

The 57 members of the House who signed a letter saying they would not vote for a bill without a public option have added three more to their number  — Robert Wexler, Emanuel Cleaver and Gregorio Sablan. They wrote a letter to Kathleen Sebelius today making it crystal clear that if there is no public plan coming out of a conference bill, they won’t vote for it (PDF):

August 17, 2009

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

We write to you concerning your recent comments about the public option in health insurance reform.

We stand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is "not the essential element" of comprehensive reform. The opportunity to improve access to healthcare is a onetime opportunity. Americans deserve reform that is real-not smoke and mirrors. We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies’ good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive healthcare that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality.

To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it.

We have attached, for your review, a letter from 60 Members of Congress who are firm in their Position that any legislation that moves forward through both chambers, and into a final proposal for the President’s signature, MUST contain a public option.

Sincerely,

Raul Grijalva
Co-Chair
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Lynn Woolsey
Co-Chair
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Barbara Lee
Co-Chair
Congressional Black Caucus

It’s pretty clear that they’re not down with the kabuki play, and are serious about conference.  Well played, progressives.

Only an arrogant nitwit would believe they could negotiate a deal that gave health care away to the pharmaceutical industry, the doctors, the hospitals and the insurance companies, tie everyone’s hands and keep the government from being able to negotiate costs for the next decade and then jam it on progressives to sell in their districts at the end the end of the process.

How you doin’ today, Rahm? Hope you enjoyed your trip under the bus, courtesy of the New York Times on Saturday.  Nice pushback to your attempts to make Max Baucus and Jim Messina the scapegoats for your grand mess.

If you’re dueling it out on the pages of the NYT as to who takes the blame when this all turns to shit, I imagine the answer is "not so good."