Opt Out Opt In
So the good news is that Reid is bringing the public option with an opt-out clause to the floor, which implies that he has enough votes to break the filibuster. (The alternative was to bring a plan to the floor without the public option and let individual Senators bring it up as amendments.) Opt-out is the least bad compromise available for the reasons that Josh Marshall spells out here. It creates the national plan that is necessary to achieve the kind of economy that's required to affect costs.
I think Reid deserve some credit here. He's been under tremendous pressure to essentially bring the Finance Committee bill to the floor and have a flurry of various failing kabuki amendments on the public option so the Villagers could say "I told you so." But he's been under a lot of pressure from his left as well, and not just from the netroots, but from his own caucus, which is a hopeful sign. Jay Rockefeller, for instance, has been surprisingly tough. Reid went the right way today and took reform another step in the right direction.
Having said that, it's premature to get too excited. There are many shoals ahead. This is one possibility:
Reid's apparent intent to move ahead with a public option, including an opt-out, has led some Senate aides to suggest Reid is readying a strategy in which he might lose the cloture vote but then quickly bring to the floor a bill with a compromise public option designed to attract more centrists. That approach would reduce the chance of attacks from liberals by proving that the votes are not there for a more robust public option, an aide to a centrist senator said.
That sounds suspiciously like a "centrist" Senator's wet dream, but it could happen. Reid will find himself in a world of hurt if it does, but maybe he figures he can get reelected on the "I did the best I could" platform. If there is any truth to it, it sounds like the idea would be for Lincoln or Nelson (probably) to join the filibuster and have Reid come back with a noxious alternative like "opt-in" that would be too confusing for the Villagers to parse. If that's the case, perhaps there is a liberal Senator, either out of principle or because he or she's up for reelection in a Blue State, standing by to join the filibuster of that noxious bill. (Senators Sanders and Dodd, call your offices.) I won't hold my breath, but you never know...
Still, this is good news, and as I said, that anonymous senate staffer could just be blowing smoke. After all, the village declared the public option dead a long time ago. They assumed that Reid and the Senate would never deliver something the liberal base demanded in a million years. That's just not the way things are done. So, even if Reid's announcement today was only another step in a process that can still end up failing either on the merits or the politics, it's a very, very good sign that the progressive caucuses in both Houses are flexing their muscles and pressing ahead.(McJoan outlines some very hopeful signs for more.)
Going into conference with a public option in both Houses is looking more and more possible by the day. Of course, then the President weighs in heavily, probably as as a mediator between the two Houses rather than a leader for the public option, and we have no idea where that leads. It ain't over til it's over.