Why not have the House pass two reconciliation bills to "fix" the Senate health reform bill?
- The first fix (which is the one they're drafting now) does not include a public option.
- The second fix does include a public option.
Let's imagine the House passes both of these fix bills, and both go to the Senate.
The first one ought to be a very safe pass through reconciliation in the Senate. At that point the original Senate reform bill and the first fix bill would be on the president's desk ready to be signed into law. We would have guaranteed that 31 million more Americans have health insurance. And though we would not have the public option on a national exchange, as many as 48% of the newly insured would be on a public health insurance option, thanks to the bill's expansion of Medicaid eligibility. (Thanks to Chris Bowers for this point.) Not bad, Democrats.
But we can do better.
So then the second fix, with the public option, comes up for a reconciliation vote in the Senate. Now we get an up or down vote on the public option--in isolation--in the Senate. This is what progressives have wanted all along. Many of us believe the 50 votes are there to pass it. Polls have always shown the public option in itself is very popular with the public. And there is a steadily growing number of Senators who say they would pass the public option through reconciliation: 35, as of this writing. So, if 50 votes are there, the public option also goes to the president's desk to sit right beside the original Senate bill and the first, "safe" reconciliation bill. The president then signs all three into law, and the celebration drinks are on me that night.
As far as I see it, the only argument against including the public option in a reconciliation bill is that it might "sink the whole bill" in the Senate. But that argument is meaningless if we can essentially isolate the public option from the rest of the reconciliation bill. The House can send one fix bill that is a safe pass. Then they can send another fix bill with a provision that is highly popular with the American people and hugely important to the progressive base and let the Senate Democrats prove which ones of them really are Democrats.
If someone knows of a parliamentary rule that makes this impossible, please let me know.
Otherwise, let's spread this idea around and make some noise. It makes no sense to skip the public option, when everywhere we look--the House, the Senate, the White House, the American public--a majority supports it.