When health care reform was passed, we were told by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) it was only a “starter home” that would be improved later. We were also offered vague promises from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that we would get a vote on a public option in the months following the passage of the new law. Obviously this hasn’t happened.
But there is no reason why Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid couldn’t bring up the public option for an up or down vote next week.
As David Waldman explains, there is a very strong case that the reconciliation instructions for the latest budget are still active and could be used for another bill.
With everyone wondering what to do — and whether or not it can be done — in the remaining few weeks of the 111th Congress, I’m just going to throw this out there: the reconciliation instructions adopted as part of the fiscal year 2010 budget resolution are still valid. That is, the Congress may still technically entitled to use them to pass another reconciliation bill, though no one expects they’d really try it.
The reconciliation instructions were for legislation that would reduce the federal deficit through reforms to health care. A public option has already been scored by the CBO as reducing the deficit and is clearly health care related. Even the Catfood Commission reluctantly admitted a public option was a viable way to reduce our long-term deficit. There is every reason to believe a public option or Medicare buy-in bill could be passed in the lame duck session with a simple majority.
Reconciliation bills have a set time limit in the Senate, so that means a public option bill couldn’t be filibustered to death by Republicans, or even used to significantly eat up the remaining floor time left until the end of the year. It couldn’t even be held hostage by the GOP blanket filibuster until the tax cuts are extended.
Of course, I don’t expect Harry Reid and the rest of the Democrats to keep their vague promises to fight on for the public option after health reform care passed. President Obama promised the hospitals he would kill the public option, and he has constantly shown more loyalty to his secret backroom deals with corporations than he has ever to his campaign promises to his supporters. I just think it is important with the Democrats about to lose control of the House that we acknowledge what is sure to be the last real chance for public option we are likely to have for a long time is quickly slipping away without fanfare.