“The best way to move forward is to include a public option with the opt-out provision for states,” Mr. Reid, of Nevada, said at a news conference. “I believe that a public option can achieve the goal of bringing meaningful reform to our broken system.
It is not clear that Mr. Reid has the 60 votes he would need just to bring the bill to the Senate floor if it includes the public insurance plan. Senate aides said Monday that Mr. Reid was several votes short of that goal.
And with his latest move, he lost the one Republican who had given the Democratic efforts a hint of bipartisanship, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, who had supported the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the bill, which did not include a public plan.
“I am deeply disappointed with the majority leader’s decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation,” Ms. Snowe said in a statement, and she said that Mr. Reid had missed a chance to keep her on board.
“I still believe that a fallback safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate,” Ms. Snowe said.
If Snowe hadn't voted for the Finance Committee bill, this would hardly be the existential threat to health care the media will make it out to be. But picking up her vote in committee and then losing it now (at least for the moment) really changes the narrative for the worse.
Don't get me wrong--everyone would still have wondered if Reid had the votes for a bill with an opt-out provision (something I certainly support). But I think they'd be seeing this for what it probably is--an effort to shift the center of gravity on health care back to the left a bit even if the final bill ends up looking different. Instead, we're going to hear a lot about how this is a big step backward politically.