Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) spent most of the year claiming he was a champion of the public option. Now that there is a possibility of getting a public option with a simple majority using reconciliation, Harkin has made clear that he will actively work to kill the public option, while tying himself in incoherent, illogical knots trying to justify his actions–while still trying to claim he supports the public option. Via The Hill:
“If we have a bill sent to us from the House that does not have the public option here, if we were to add it here, it would sink the whole bill.,” Harkin said during an interview on MSNBC, adding that he would not vote to revive the public option “if it meant that it would sink the whole healthcare reform bill.”
The logical problem is that the push is on for the House to first pass the comprehensive Senate health care bill, and then pass the changes through reconciliation. This is what Kent Conrad (D-ND) is demanding, and the likely path forward indicated by a new leaked memo to Inside Health Policy (via Politico). If the House passes the comprehensive Senate bill and then moves on to the reconciliation sidecar, what happens to the reconciliation measure is relatively unimportant from Harkin’s perspective. If the reconciliation measure goes down because a public option was added in the Senate, the original Senate health care bill Harkin supported would still be law. It would not “sink the whole healthcare bill,” just some modifications to the bill.
Of course, Harkin is expecting supporters to believe that he will magically find a spine to fight for the public option at some distant point in the future when Democrats are assured to have fewer seats in the House and Senate. But, Harkin is clear: we definitely should not fight for the public option now, when it is basically guaranteed to get an up or down vote in the Senate. Via The Hill:
“This bill is not the 10 Commandments carved in stone for all eternity,” he said. “I’ll tell you this: If the public option is not in this bill…that means we’ll be back on it again, maybe this year, maybe the next.”
Democrats are right now working to fix some of the problems with the current Senate bill using reconciliation. It is an insult to the progressive community’s intelligence to ask them to pin their hopes for a public option on Democrats taking up another health care reconciliation package to pass the public option later this year or next if it is presupposed Senate “supporters” are going to work against its inclusion in the current bill.