Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Future of the Public Option (On Schedule...)

Always listen to Plain Blog.  Back in December, I said:
[P]ublic option supporters are going to win their war, even while losing this battle...Public option is going to be a litmus test for liberals in Congressional primaries in 2010 [and] 2012...[O]ver time, more and more Democrats in Congress -- moderates as well as liberals -- are going to have campaign commitments to a public option. Not only that, public option will be much more front-and-center in future Democratic campaigns.
And now Ezra Klein notes:
Michael Bennett is a moderate Democratic senator from Colorado. Kirsten Gillibrand was a moderate Democrat in the House until she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Neither is the sort of politician you'd expect to be out front on a major liberal priority. But there they are, signatories to a letter asking Harry Reid to bring a public option up for a vote through the reconciliation process...Both Bennett and Gillibrand are facing [primary] challengers from the left, and so they're signing their names to liberal priorities you might otherwise expect them to avoid. 
I think Ezra actually understates the situation: Gillibrand is in fact facing a challenge from the left, but the potential Harold Ford challenge is more likely to be from the right.  And it still pushes her towards the public option, because the public option is overwhelmingly popular among Democratic activists and primary voters, and polls pretty well among all voters.  

If Democrats can manage to pass health care reform this year, they'll add the public option soon --  perhaps in the next Congress, but if not then very likely in the following Congress is Obama is reelected and Democrats have control of both Houses of Congress.  Of course, if the Democrats fail to pass health care reform, then all bets are off.

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