Saturday, November 21, 2009

Trading Away The Public Option For Fun And Profit

Amid the drama today regarding the Senate cloture vote (It passed 60-39. Yay, us!), was another, more insidious drama taking place behind the scenes.

A Senate Democratic aide tells me that folks aren't too happy with the news that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is negotiating a public option "trigger compromise" with members of the caucus.

"He went on his own to talk to Landrieu about the trigger option," the aide says. "That's rather unseemly, especially for Schumer to have reached out to Landrieu before we had the vote. It's very inappropriate."

Obviously there are plenty of reasons for plenty of people to say they're upset about this. But the fact that Schumer began these discussions before today's vote does seem notable, given that Harry Reid was supposed to be negotiating for the votes.

A Schumer spokesperson later denied the Senator was pre-negotiating for a triggered public option.

But then at a press conference held shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader had this to say:

Q: Senator Lincoln today made it very clear that she’s not going to support any kind of public option. Senator Lieberman has said the same. What do you see as the chances it will be in the final bill.

Reid: First of all, I support a strong public option. I welcome Senator Schumer, Landrieu and Carper, who Senator Landrieu said are working together to find a public option that is acceptable to all Democrats….

Q: Did you just say that you’ve tasked Senator Schumer, Carper and Landrieu or …

Reid: No. It’s my understanding that Senator Landrieu said today that she’s working with Senator Schumer and Carper to come up with an alternative.

Finally, just a few minutes ago, Schumer's PAC sent this fundraising letter out:

Dear Marta,

Moments ago, the Senate voted to begin its full debate on historic health care reform legislation instead of obstructing it with a filibuster.

Tonight's vote marks the biggest victory to date for our grassroots effort to pass health care reform with a public option. We cannot give enough thanks to the over 100,000 signers of our petition at for helping to fundamentally shift the momentum towards meaningful reform.

Not long ago, a few loud opponents of reform armed and organized by the insurance industry dominated this debate. Now the American people, the majority of whom support a public option, have spoken out and gained the upper hand.

Not long ago, the public option seemed like little more than a pipe dream. Now it's part of health care bills in both the Senate and the House.

Not long ago, members of our own Democratic caucus weren't sure they could even support an up-or-down vote on health care reform legislation. Tonight they voted to end the Republican filibuster.

But despite this good news, the fight for meaningful health care reform is not over. As we debate amendments to this legislation in the coming weeks, we will work with our colleagues to ensure it continues to address the "Three C's" of meaningful reform: competition, choice, and cost reduction. And we will firmly oppose any effort to eliminate the public option.

Tonight we celebrate a milestone no one thought we could reach just months ago. Tomorrow the fight continues. We will not let up until the President signs a bill we can all be proud of.

Thank you for your support.


Senator Chuck Schumer
Senator Dick Durbin
Senator Patrick Leahy

Trading away the public option for fun and profit. Nice.

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