It appears Harry Reid (D-NV) has promised Senate liberals a vote on a public option in the next few months. It sounds like this vague promise of “fixing it later” was more than enough to get Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to completely flip-flop on offering a public option amendment during reconciliation. From Huffington Post:
In the end, of course, the public plan still faces the same institutional hurdles it had in the previous go-rounds — mainly that there aren’t 60 supportive senators to break a filibuster. But aides on the Hill are already looking to future reconciliation vehicles to which they can attach the policy, which would in turn allow for it to pass via an up-or-down vote.
“I very much appreciate Majority Leader Reid’s continuing support for a public option and I am grateful for his commitment to bring legislation before the full Senate within the next several months,” Sen. Sanders said in response. “It’s imperative that we have a vote on this issue and I’m glad that is going to happen… It is my judgment that a majority of members in the House and Senate would support a public option when it comes up for a vote.”
This is probably the single worst trade since the beginning of this process. If Sanders offered a public option amendment to the reconciliation, he would be guaranteed an up-or-down, simple majority vote on an amendment to a bill that can’t be filibustered. Given that the big health care bill would have already been passed if the reconciliation bill is in the Senate, there is no need to worry the public option would derail the original Senatet bill. So, it sounds like Sanders and the other public option supporters in the Senate traded away a rock solid guarantee for a vote on a public option in exchange for a vague promise that they might possibly get a vote later. Way to negotiate!
It is good that they are at least talking about possibly putting in reconciliation instructions into the next budget that could be used to pass a public option with only a simple majority in the Senate. Promising a vote in a few months on the public option under regular order, which could be filibustered, would be so pathetic, it would make everyone involved look like fools.
I guess we will know in a month or two if they added potential public option reconciliation instructions to the budget, and whether or not Harry Reid is possibly true to his word. Personally, given his behavior over the last year, I’m not holding my breath.