Did Harry Reid Use The Public Option To Punk The Democratic Base?

Today, Sen Michael Bennet (D-CO) sent Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) a letter co-signed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). It asked Reid to add the public option to health care reform using reconciliation. The letter makes the case that a public option is popular, good politics, good policy, and makes strong fiscal sense. Sam Stein at Huffington Post has Reid's office's response:
"Senator Reid remains a strong supporter of the public option, but it's always a question of where the votes are," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley in a statement to HuffPost.

Well, this is an interesting response for several reasons. First, getting the votes needed to pass something is Reid's job as majority leader, and the claim that Reid is a great vote-counter has long been justification for why he has the job.

But, more importantly, this statement raises a big question. Why did Reid make the decision to put the public option with a state opt-out provision in the merged Senate bill?

He led the base to believe that he would fight for the public option. Most importantly, he led the base to believe that this modification to the public option could get 60 votes in the Senate needed for cloture, or at least very close to 60 votes. When, eventually, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, and Blanche Lincoln rejected the public option, supporters were led to believe it was only three to five votes shy of passing, and only those few conservative Democrats were to blame.

If the public option with a state opt-out was only a few votes shy of 60, it should clearly have at least 50 votes for passage by a reconciliation measure that can't be filibustered, right? What Reid's spokesman now appears to be saying is that the public option doesn't have even 50 votes in the Senate.

Isn't it strange, now that the barrier to getting a public option has been dramatically lowered, Reid still does not have the sway to round up the votes he needs to deliver on his promise? It sounds like when Reid added the public option to the Senate bill, he did it purely to grandstand for the base, but with zero intent of delivering. I remember Reid using this move to gather a lot of email address, and probably donations. So, the question Reid needs to answer is:
Who are the nine Senate Democrats telling Reid they will kill health care reform if it contains the public option supported overwhelming by the Democratic base?

I wonder if Reid will continue to protect the nine Democratic senators who are demanding that the health care reform stay very unpopular and very friendly to the health insurance industry.

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