President Obama visited Senate Democrats to urge them to come together on a health care deal. But strangely enough–or perhaps, not so strangely, when one thinks about matters–a certain sticky issue was not mentioned at all.
And Joe Lieberman noticed:
As President Obama finished his speech to the Democratic caucus in the Capitol’s Mansfield Room on Sunday afternoon, Joe Lieberman made his way over to Harry Reid.
The independent who still caucuses with Democrats wanted to point something out to the Majority Leader: Obama didn’t mention the public option.
Lieberman was beaming as he left the room and happy to re-point it out when HuffPost asked him what Obama had said about the public health insurance option, perhaps the most contentious issue still facing Democrats as they negotiate their way toward a final health care reform bill.
“Well, it was interesting to me — of course everybody hears with their own ears — that he didn’t say anything about the public option,” said Lieberman. “In other words, when he outlined how far we’ve come on the bill, he talked about the cost-containment provisions; he talked about the insurance market reforms; and he talked about enabling 30 million more people to get insurance. He said these are historic accomplishments, the most significant social legislation, or whatever you call it, in decades, so don’t lose it.”
It is entirely possible, of course, that the White House will continue to push for the public option despite the President’s silence on the issue when he met with his former Senate colleagues. But it is more than a little interesting that the President simply did not say a word about the public option. Is it possible that the White House is getting ready to ditch the option?
Maybe. At the very least, if I were a public option supporter, I would be concerned. I’d also be concerned about this:
Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said on Sunday that if leadership doesn’t work with him on his amendment that would break the White House deal with Big Pharma, he won’t be there to support the bill.
On Saturday, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said that his drug re-importation amendment was the only one so far guaranteed by leadership to get a floor vote.
HuffPost asked Nelson if he had gotten a similar guarantee. “I haven’t gotten a guarantee, but they’re going to have to,” he said.
And why is that?
“They need 60 votes, don’t they?” said a smiling Nelson. Democrats need 60 votes — precisely the size of their caucus — to break a filibuster and move to a final vote. The precarious nature of the super-majority gives individual senators veto power over the bill.
I really don’t know whom to root for on this. Nelson will seriously harm the ability of pharma companies to engage in critical R&D. But it is yet another headache as Democrats seek to pass health care reform.