The Least Of Harry Reid's Problems

by digby

Think Progress;

For months now, media critics like Media Matters’ Jamison Foser have pointed out that the press have often demonstrated a double standard when questioning opponents and proponents of the public option, only asking advocates about whether they think it is “better to have nothing than to have a plan that does not include the public option.” On CBS’ Face The Nation today, however, host Bob Schieffer put the question to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who claims that he is “all for health care reform, but is threatening to join a Republican filibuster to stop any reform bill that has a public option.

“But wouldn’t that mean that you might wind up with nothing instead of something?” asked Schieffer. Lieberman responded by saying that supporters of the public option are “stopping us from getting something done” because they’re making the option “the litmus test.” Pressed again by Schieffer, Lieberman admitted that he would prefer “nothing”:

SCHIEFFER: But is what you’re also saying is that nothing is better than a government health insurance, or a health insurance reform that includes a public option? Nothing is better than that?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the truth is that nothing is better than that because I think we ought to follow, if I may, the doctor’s oath in Congress as we deal with health care reform, do no harm.

There you have it. Meanwhile, here's Dede Myers on Stephanopoulos this morning:

"I don't believe anyobody believes there's enough votes in the Senate to pass this. So what's the fall back plan? An opt-in which brings back Olympia Snow."

(I actually think this is more about Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman than it is about Olympia Snow, but that's just a guess.)

Sheldon Whitehouse was quoted in The Hill on Friday saying the same thing as Myers:

The Senate health bill is drifting toward ending up with an "opt-in" provision versus an "opt-out," one Democratic senator said Friday.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) predicted that healthcare reform in the upper chamber would shift from its current construction, which allows states to opt out of a public option, to a version that forces states to opt into such a plan.

"I think it's falling into an opt-in, versus opt-out," Whitehouse said during an appearance on MSNBC. "You have a public option, but it's up to a state to take an affirmative act to take advantage of it."
Whitehouse suggested the opt-in as a potential compromise on the public option to win enough Democratic votes in the Senate, where Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has said he will vote against a bill containing a public option, and several other centrist Democrats have been reluctant to support the current proposal.

What we only suspected
last week, when Harry Reid refused to say if he had the votes, is now right out there on the table. This is the blueprint for passing the bill. I guessed (although I obviously don't know for sure) that it is a strategy that was planned from the beginning --- throw the opt-out to the lefty fools, get them all excited and on board, and then pull this switcheroo and tell everyone it's really the same thing. It will force public option advocates to babble about the details of opt-in vs opt-out, and that's a difficult argument, which most people won't instinctively see as substantial. Smart move.

If it weren't for all the future premature deaths at stake, you'd have to say it would serve them right if Lieberman and/or Nelson end up refusing to play ball on opt-in and screw up their whole scheme. Unfortunately, it looks like this is the path they've chosen to get the bill to the conference and it sounds like they have the votes for it, despite Lieberman's braying. (I bet he'll hem and haw and then give a lugubrious, prime time speech about how he stayed awake at night tossing and turning and then realized that he needed to give the president a chance.)

Looks like it's up to the House to just say no to the opt-in. Which means the best case scenario in the final bill will be the opt-out. Some people know how to negotiate better than others.

Update: By the way, the opt-out includes the opt-in. Obviously.