Now that the remaining holdouts have made their intentions known on health care, it’s worth wondering why Harry Reid added the opt out provision to his bill.
The opt out doesn’t seem to have brought along any of the critical votes needed to get to 60 votes and secure a cloture vote through the regular process. Joe Lieberman didn’t want the public option before, and he doesn’t want it with the opt out. Blanche Lincoln wavered before, and she seemed adamant now that the public option had to come out. Mary Landrieu, the same. Ben Nelson basically intimated this week that removing the public option would satisfy his concerns about the abortion provisions.
The reason to add a state opt out to the public option, one would assume, would be to bring conservative Democrats on board with the bill. But it doesn’t look like it’s done that at all. Moreover, it doesn’t give those conservatives much room to say that they extracted changes that would satisfy them. If Reid had just put in the HELP Committee’s public option, he could have watered it down with an opt out, letting the Lincolns and Landrieus of the world say that they got something. Now, they’d have to essentially kill it, either with a trigger designed not to trigger, or the elimination of the measure altogether.
This seems to be a persistent problem with the Democrats, trying to design the perfect solution, pre-compromised, and then being surprised when the conservative Dems demand more changes in their direction. The bill has of course been compromised eight ways to Sunday already, of course, and yet the axis of Nelson and Lieberman and Lincoln and Landrieu aren’t satisfied.
At this point, these conservaDems don’t have the likely 60 votes to change the public option in the bill. So who knows what will happen in the future. But from a tactical standpoint, I have no idea why the opt out was introduced.