Wednesday, September 30, 2009

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

The public option took a couple of hits yesterday, but it might not be dead just yet.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said that the Senate “comfortably” has a majority of votes to pass the public plan, and that he believes Democrats can muster 60 votes to break a filibuster.

“I have polled senators, and the vast majority of Democrats — maybe approaching 50 — support a public option,” Harkin said told the liberal “Bill Press Radio Show.” “So why shouldn’t we have a public option? We have the votes.

“I believe we’ll have the 60 votes, now that we have the new senator from Massachusetts, to at least get it on the Senate floor,” Harkin later added. “But once we cross that hurdle, we only need 51 votes for the public option. And I believe there are, comfortably, 51 votes for a public option.”

The Republicans — and Ben Nelson (D-NE) — are saying that the Democrats need a “supermajority” of 70+ votes in order to pass healthcare. Oh, have they changed the rules since I learned in Grade 8 social studies that in order for a bill to pass in the Senate you needed just a majority of the votes? That would be 51. Not 60, not 75. And since there seems to be an epidemic of short-term memory loss, may I remind the distinguished members of the Senate — both Republicans and Democrats — that a lot of controversial bills in this nation’s history have been passed without the support of one party or the other.

Personally, I’m not betting the whole pot on the public option as the make-or-break issue. There are a lot of ways that healthcare and health insurance can be made affordable, accessible, and universal. But the way the opponents of the public option are going way over the top in their scare tactics to try to defeat it, there must be something to it; otherwise Big Insurance and Big Pharma wouldn’t be so panic-stricken.