As observed on Open Left and other places we’re seeing an unusual trend of many centrist Senators saying the the Public Option doesn’t have the votes to pass, but few centrist Senators actually saying they’re unconditionally or even generally opposed to the public option.
So are there 50 votes for the Public Option or not? You would think this question will answer itself eventually through the obscure parliamentary tactic known as a floor vote, but I wondered if you’ll ever see that vote.
There are a lot of reasons the reform package is taking so long to move forward and why Senators are being reluctant to come out with their opinions or actually pick an opinion and stick with it. The main reason is that I doubt anybody really knows how this will turn out; they don’t know what can move through reconciliation, they don’t know the vote count as of today, they don’t know how hard the Senate leadership or House of Representatives will push them. But another thing slowing down the process is the desire to provide cover for the no votes, especially if they’ve got enough votes to torpedo the public option.
Reid could, and suspect will, split the bill into two or more parts and let the votes sort out the outcome. But it’s unclear if Reid will call a vote he’ll lose. If does you’d basically have a list of Dem Senators that care more about insurance companies then party loyalty.
You could see a similar pattern occurring on all the major legislative issues. Just as insurance regulation has more support then the public option, renewable energy has more votes then Cap and Trade. Financial interests will pick a particular objectionable (read effective) piece of banking reform and suddenly you’ll find that item is politically unrealistic. And there’s no guarantee you’ll get floor votes on any of “controversial” reform sub-items if the Committees or Senate leadership wants to avoid it.
In each case it’ll be an open question exactly how the process plays out, so they might be forced to call a vote where major party initiatives are in danger of being voted down in public view, but each time they’ll be an incentive make the process as opaque as possible.