Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Public option amendment a ploy?

I just heard on Fox News that an amendment is being voted on today to add a "public option" provision to the Baucus health care bill. Fox's line on this is that, since the Baucus bill is the only Democratic bill that does not include the public option, this amendment is an important test. If it passes, it would mean the Dems have enough votes to push through a final bill which includes a public option.

I wonder if something else is going on here as well. The public option is a hot potato, and even Dems are split on whether it should be pursued. Recent thinking has been that it wouldn't make it into a final bill, and that a even a bill without a public option might be difficult to pass. Perhaps Dems, fearing they will get no health care bill passed, are bringing this to a vote as a ploy. If the amendment fails in a close vote, the non-public option form of the bill can be pumped as a reasonable and practical compromise. The Dems can say, Okay, it was close, but we lost. But health car reform is so important that we're willing to accept that and go with the Baucus bill (with no public option), which everyone can agree is a fair compromise.

This tactic has worked well for Obama. He often points to the most extreme position -- even if no one advocates it -- in order to cast his (slightly less extreme) position as a moderate and reasonable compromise. The Dems are smart. They'd like to get it all done at once, but they know that's not politically feasible. But they also know that, if they can just get government's foot in the health care reform door, the slippery slope will do the rest over time.

No comments: