Daily Pulse: Finance Committee Rejects Public Option


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Yesterday, the powerful Senate Finance Committee met to debate two
amendments that would have inserted a public option into the
committee’s health reform bill. Both amendments were defeated as key
Democrats sided with Republicans and the insurance companies. David
Corn of Mother Jones diagnoses what ails Senate Democrats. It’s split personality disorder: “They are the best friends of the health insurance industry. They are fiercest foes of the health insurance industry.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) strong public option amendment was
defeated 15-8 because senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND),
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Tom Carper (D-DE)
joined the committee’s ten Republicans. In the next round of voting,
Nelson and Carper backed Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) amendment, but Baucus,
Conrad and Lincoln stuck with the GOP and voted it down. Ironically, as
Corn observes, the Senate Democratic communications team was busy
emailing blistering indictments of the insurance industry while key
members of the caucus were doing the insurers’ bidding.

John Nichols of The Nation worries that yesterday’s defeat is a sign that Congress is backing away from a public option, which was itself a compromise alternative to a single-payer, Medicare-for-all type system:

Tuesday’s day-long gathering of the powerful Senate Finance Committee,
where chairman Max Baucus has spent months lowering expectations,
offered a sense of just how dim prospects for meaningful systemic
change have become.

Baucus, the insurance-industry representative who doubles as a
Democratic senator from Montana, long ago rejected the notion that a
robust public option might be a part of any healthcare reform measure
that would pass the Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee went on to add tens of millions of
dollars for discredited abstinence-only propaganda for teens, as Mike
Lillis of the Washington Independent reports. Well, at least pseudoscience has a public option.
If kids can learn this nonsense for free at school, maybe they’ll ditch
church, where you have to put your money in the collection plate to
hear the sermon.

Chris Bowers of AlterNet argues that a public option still has 51 votes in the Senate.
Which means that the Democrats could still pass a healthcare bill by
majority vote in the upper chamber, if they decided to forgo their
quest for a filibuster-proof 60 and pass the bill through budget
reconciliation.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, claims to have the votes to pass a plan with a public option,
Lynda Waddington reports in the Iowa Independent. Harkin believes that
the full Senate should have the opportunity to vote on the public
option, considering that it’s part of four out of the five bills that
have been approved so far.

The fight for a public option isn’t over yet. To date, all of the
other health reform bills that are out of committee include a strong
public option. The next step is putting these bills together to create
the final legislation for the House and Senate to vote on.

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