Monday, November 23, 2009

Return of Triggers

Josh Marshall goes there and asks whether the public option -- as it actually exists in the current bills, as opposed to some ideal public option that isn't going to happen this year -- is worth sinking the entire health care bill. I think the general mood among the blogs after the Saturday night cloture vote is pretty down on the prospects of the public option passing (or, if current versions pass, actually doing anything useful). The logjam of Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Lincoln and Landrieu doesn't really seem to be breakable, or so goes the conventional wisdom today.

To some extent, this is a consequence of the decision by liberals to draw a firm line between weak-public-option-with-opt-out (OK) and triggered (weak) public option (with opt out). I understand why liberals would prefer the former, but I really haven't seen a good argument for that particular distinction as a dealbreaker -- although I guess part of the problem is that I also don't think liberals have a decent argument for a public option of any kind as a dealbreaker, and so it does make some sense for them to set a line, even if it's a bluff. If, however, the liberals drop that line, it still appears to me that a triggered public option might be available. We'll see.

At any rate, a few weeks ago I wrote a mostly facetious post speculating that the winning bill would need to contain co-ops (for Conrad), an opt-out (for Carper), a trigger (for Snowe), and an opt-in, for good measure. I thought it was facetious, but perhaps that's how it's going to work -- not trigger or co-ops or opt-out, but all of those things.

On the serious side, it seems to me that the question is whether there's some formula that could give Snowe her trigger while also giving liberals some assurance of some sort of public option. Perhaps allow some subset of states (possibly strong liberal states including CA and NY) to immediately enter a public plan, but trigger other states down the line, preserving an opt-out if that's what they want. And then the other half of the question is whether the formula that Snowe likes would satisfy Lincoln, Landrieu, Lieberman, and the Benator, and perhaps also bring in Collins, Voinovich, and Lugar.

Alas, on the (I hope) less serious side, here's how I concluded my speculation last time:
(Unfortunately, if that doesn't get 60 votes, step six involves bombing Iran. But it's a start).

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