Let's take Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and some Colorado progressive groups at their word when they say the only reason they have previously opposed offering a public-option amendment to the Senate reconciliation bill is because if it passes, the bill would then have to be sent back to the House. They say that having to send it back to the House would "complicate" matters (which doesn't make much sense to me, considering the House is controlled by Democrats, and the House has already passed the public option... but I digress).
So fine -- let's just for a moment take Bennet at his word that he's not trying to defend the insurance industry and take some Colorado progressive groups at their word that they aren't simply bowing down to their Democratic bosses and their big donors.
OK -- so what about now?
Senate Republicans succeeded early Thursday morning in finding two flaws in the House-passed health care reconciliation package... the upshot is that Republicans will succeed in at least slightly altering the legislation, which means that the House is once again required to vote on it.
The ruling might give Democrats another option -- the public one.
Democratic leadership no longer has to worry that additional amendments would send it back to the House, since it must return to the lower chamber regardless. The Senate is now free to put to the test that much-debated question of whether 50 votes exist for a public option. Democrats could also elect to expand Medicare or Medicaid, now that they only need 50 votes in the Senate and the approval of the House.
The question then becomes whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could pass the reconciliation changes with a public option. She has long maintained that the House has the votes to do so. Indeed, it did so in late 2009...
The Huffington Post interviewed House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Wednesday evening and asked if he thought he could have gotten the public option back through a second time, when the House voted on Sunday, even without those members who had left. "Yes, sir," he said emphatically. Clyburn added that the problem for the public option has never been in the House. The problem has been in the Senate. And now the upper chamber has a chance to vote on it. (emphasis added)
So the bill is going back to the House anyway, the Senate still has time to amend the bill with a public option, and the top House Democratic leaders are on the record saying they could pass the public option. Additionally, the New York Times notes that "the parliamentary process playing out on the Senate floor gives (Democrats) a rare chance to enact (the public option) with a simple majority, a chance unlikely to come around again soon." (this latter point is a key one for the "let's wait for a standalone bill later" crowd -- I'll repeat what the Times reports: the specific chance we have right now is "a chance unlikely to come around again soon.")
So I ask what we asked yesterday at our rally at Sen. Bennet's office: Will our senator now fulfill his promise to push a public option using reconciliation?
Or are we going to get yet another ridiculous excuse?