If The Public Option is Dead, Democrats Killed It by Gregory Hilton

Democrats have a veto proof majority in the U.S. Senate but the health care public option still went down to defeat yesterday in the Finance Committee. The demise was due to the opposition of Democrats Max Baucus (MT), Kent Conrad (ND), Blanche Lambert (AR), Tom Carper (DE) and Ben Nelson (NE). Liberal organizations ran powerful TV ads in Montana against Finance Committee Chairman Baucus, but it was not enough. A major reason for the defeat is the shift in public opinion. Lambert emphasized health care in her two previous Senate campaigns. She is up for reelection in 2010 and does not face a well known GOP foe. Nevertheless, she is losing to all four Republicans. Lambert will not vote for cloture on any bill that has a public option. Conrad and Baucus obviously do not want it, and Nelson is telling Senate Democrats not to pass health through the reconciliation process. The public option can survive in the House, but I am skeptical it will be added back in a House/Senate Conference. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling the Senate Democrats that a bill requiring mandates with no public option will result in a 2010 election setback for her party.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich responded: “An amazing number of Democrats voted no, and I think it puts them in a position where there’s a clear signal to the House Democrats that unless you’re suicidal, you’re going to drop this because why would a marginal House Democratic member vote for a government option in the House knowing that it is absolutely dead in the Senate?”

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