Reid: We Are Short Of 60 Votes For The Public Option, Though We Don't Want To Admit It

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on October 27, 2009

That is the gist of this story (subscription only). A taste:

Senate Majority Leader Reid said Monday the version of healthcare overhaul legislation he worked out with White House officials will include a public option with the choice for states to opt out, but he stopped short of saying he has 60 votes for the proposal.

When asked specifically whether he has the votes necessary to begin debate, Reid evaded the question.

“As soon as we get the bill back from CBO, and people have a chance to look at it, which we’ll have ample time to do that, I believe we clearly will have the support of my Caucus to move to this bill and start legislating,” Reid said.

The proposal would allow states to opt out once the exchanges are up and running and gives them until 2014 to make up their minds.

Reid sent to CBO Monday the state opt-out public plan. He did not ask for a score on other proposals, including a public option that would be subject to a trigger supported by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, or an opt-in proposal backed by Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

Reid sent several draft concepts that include as many modifications on certain provisions as they have ready, including provisions on the employer mandate, affordability and a long-term insurance program, according to Reid spokesmen.

Sources estimate Reid is a few votes shy of 60 on the state opt-out plan.

Republican senators and aides argued Reid will not find the votes for cloture on the opt-out bill, but is laying the groundwork to quickly bring up a weaker bill designed to attract others if the cloture vote fails.

Such an approach would reduce liberal opposition to further compromise by showing the votes are not there for a more robust public option, these Republicans argued. “I think it’s to show the Democratic base that, ‘Yeah, we tried it and it didn’t work so now we’re going to go with plan B,’” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

The analysis seems right to me. And if it is indeed correct, it means that the Democratic base is going to get betrayed on the public option. The fallout from that betrayal–and the commensurate anger of the Democratic base–ought to be interesting, once the 2010 midterms roll around.

Of course, it ought to go without saying that no one is fooled by Reid’s act.

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