The Great Public Option Flip-Flop: Sanders Will Now Work To Deny the American People an Up-or-Down Vote

Previously, I have explained how if just one single senator that supported the public option offered an amendment during reconciliation, it would force an up or down vote on the matter. This means it would only take 51 votes to include a public option, and, at the very least, we would finally get to see on the record the senators that stood up for the American people, and which ones were fighting to protect the profits of the health insurance industry. Only a week ago, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) promised to stand up, if no other Democratic senator would, to offer a public option amendment and provide the country with a measure of accountability on the issue.

Well, it did not take long for Sanders to break his promise on the public option. Sanders has completely flip-flopped, and will now work to deny the American people the up-or-down vote that they deserve. From Burlington Free Press:
The National Journal reported on its Web site Thursday that Sanders and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., would shelve an amendment to the bill during the reconciliation process in exchange for assurances the proposal would be resurrected later.

A statement by Will Wiquist, a Sanders spokesman, confirmed the report. “Bernie is a strong supporter of a public option and will continue to work to create a system that provides competition for private insurance companies as a way to hold down skyrocketing premiums,” Wiquist said by e-mail. “He thinks majorities in the House and Senate would support a public option.”

“Given the very delicate situation at this time and the challenge facing Speaker Pelosi as she rounds up votes, Bernie and other senators have concluded that offering a public option amendment now could undermine the entire process.”

This, of course, is nonsense. The House must first pass the current comprehensive Senate bill, so it can be signed into law before the reconciliation package can go to the Senate. Once the big Senate bill is law, whether the reconciliation bill passes or not will have very little affect on health care policy in this country. Given that worrying about possibly derailing only the reconciliation package by trying to include a very popular and important improvement to the bill is silly. Also, why would you worry about a public option derailing the bill if you believe, as Sanders claims, that it does have a majority of support in both chambers of Congress.

This is an incredibly disappointing moment. Is there not one single member of the Democratic caucus in the Senate that thinks the American people deserved to know if their senators really support the public option or care more about protecting the profits of the private insurance companies? I just wish our representatives would have the decency not to lie to their supporters about what they will do, and not make promises they quickly break.

If the supporters of the public option won't fight for it now in a reconciliation bill, when it has the best chance of passing with a simple majority vote, why should we ever trust their promise of getting to it "later?"

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