Saturday, November 21, 2009


I'm paying some attention to Blanche Lincoln for good reasons (because she might wind up being the 60th vote) and bad (because I have a prediction out that she'll be with the Dems). So, I watched her floor speech earlier today. As some noted, she of course said that she wasn't committing to anything later, but she also singled out the public option. Here's Jonathan Cohn:
She went on to note that, when it comes time to move a bill off the floor--that is, to end debate in order to have an actual up-or-down vote on the proposal--she would not support a government-run plan. She was pretty emphatic about that point, too.
I think that's right, but I also think the position she took was quite interesting. First of all, outside of the public option, her statement was basically indistinguishable, as far as I could tell, from those of the (other?) pro-reform Dems today. She did talk a bit about a few items that differed in the Senate Finance bill (which, of course, she voted for) and the merged bill, but most of her statement was standard pro-reform rhetoric. That certainly sounds like someone who is preparing to vote yes at the end of the day.

OK: the public option. Lincoln certainly, as Cohn says, came down pretty forcefully against. But again, the grounds on which she did so were interesting. Lincoln did talk a little about general growth of government concerns with regard to the public option, but her primary complaint was cost; she floated the possibility that some future Congress would be forced to bail out a failing public option. Now, that sounds to me like something that can be compromised with some sort of language "preventing" future spending.

In other words, I think Lincoln is probably looking for some sort of visible concession that she can bring back home in an effort to show that she made the bill more moderate, but I'm not at all convinced that the concession will have be wind up being substantive.

Meanwhile, I continue to believe that the logic of her position (already voted for the Senate Finance bill, will now vote for cloture on the motion to proceed) will wind up pushing her to stcik with the Democrats on the final cloture vote. And I think, in her statement, she provided wiggle room to either accept a non-substantive amendment to protect the government from the supposed threat of a future public option bailout, or to eventually go yes/no on cloture and final passage.

By the way, I thought the statement itself was unusually weak. Don't know if that means she needs to get herself a better writer on her staff, or if it means it was hashed out at the very last minute because she didn't commit until then.

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