Monday, October 26, 2009

Opt Out

Just watched Harry Reid's press conference announcing that the bill he sends to CBO (and then on to the floor) will include a public option with opt out. A few quick points...

First, it seems that he's nailed down 60 on the motion to proceed. That doesn't mean he has enough votes to pass the bill, but it's a start. Remember that there can be separate filibusters on the motion to proceed and on the bill itself (and on any other debatable motions), each one requiring separate filibuster votes. So Lincoln, Nelson, etc. may have committed to bringing the bill to the floor, but that's all.

Second, I assume -- and we'll see -- that this takes care of Reid's problems with liberals in his reelection campaign.

Third, he was extremely non-forthcoming on any of the other parts of the bill. He said he's sending multiple versions (of some provisions?) to CBO; presumably reporters will know more about all of this shortly. I'll just cite Jonathan Cohn again: the specific compromise that we wind up with on the public option is not as important as the other pieces of the bill.

Fourth, I was watching on MSNBC, and the anchors there concluded that the White House hasn't been involved (I don't have an exact quote -- I'm really not a reporter!). That's not correct at all. All of the reporting has indicated that the White House has been extremely involved in the merger negotiations (between the HELP and Finance bills). What Reid specifically said was the the White House hasn't called to lobby Senators...the way he said it, and I'm not going to look for a transcript, seemed to allow for quite a lot of White House, including presidential, direct involvement. In other words, Obama may have made calls to negotiate particular points and still fit within Reid's claim. I'm not saying that Obama made such calls, or even that others in the White House did, but only Reid's wording didn't preclude a lot of White House involvement.

Fifth, if it is correct that there are Dems telling Reid that they will help get the bill to the floor but that they can't promise anything after that, I think those Dems may wind up trapping themselves. They may think that a yes/no/no/no pattern (yes on cloture on the motion to proceed, against the public option in amendment votes, against final cloture, against final passage) will look sufficiently moderate, but my guess is that Republicans would attack that pattern exactly as they would attack yes/yes/yes/yes (or, more realistically, yes/no/yes/no), and that they may realize that once the voting, and partisan attacks, begin. That may be Reid's real gamble: that once a Dem votes for cloture on the motion to proceed, he or she will find little political advantage in voting for cloture on the bill, regardless of what's in it.

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