Yeah, I bet there's a title you thought you'd never read. People, you see, people forget that there's a very good reason why Harry Reid (whilst a mediocre Senator) is the Senate Majority Leader: he's a very good politician. Today, Reid announced that he'll be putting the public option to a vote, but it's not quite what anyone expected.
The public option isn't a guaranteed option across the United States, as many progressives favoured. Nor is it the "trigger" option endorsed by Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). It is a new option - a national public plan that individual state governments can opt out of by 2014. Many progressives are simply pleased that any public option is going to a vote, and those who think states should choose are at least a little mollified. But let me explain why Harry Reid is a freaking genius for this plan.
Progressives in the US were upset by the "trigger" plan. The concept of the trigger plan was that a public option would automatically become offered if the reforms passing Congress failed to achieve their goals. Many progressives wanted a public option, now, believing that only competition from a non-profit entity can cause insurance companies to lower their rates and increase coverage.
But now we get to the real genius - Reid is publicly admitting that he doesn't have 60 votes in the Senate for this plan, which opens up the possibility of a filibuster. In fact, he's practically daring the Republicans to filibuster the plan. Why? Because if the Republicans filibuster, the Democrats have a beautiful, powerful example of "the Party of No". All summer, the Republicans attacked the Democrats plans for health care, without providing an alternative. A filibuster would be a living, breathing example of this: it'd be a perfect manner to hammer the GOP on health care.
But what, you ask, if the Republicans allow the bill to pass without a filibuster, or Reid can gather 60 votes for the plan? Well, that's where the state opt-out comes into play. You see, I can pretty much guarantee you the states that will opt-out of the public plan: those states with Republican government, like Texas, Alabama, Alaska, and South Carolina. One of two things will happen: either the public option fails, wherein the Dems blame the state governments for staying in, or it works (far more likely), and the Republican state governments have handed the Democrats a major hammer.
The Republicans can't stop reform now, and they know it. It's merely a question of who comes out looking worse. This move by Harry Reid almost assures it will be the Republicans who get the black eye.