Chuck Schumer’s public option amendment lost 13 to 10 in the Senate Finance Committee today, while Jay Rockefeller’s lost 15 to 8. The two bills are almost identical, except that Schumer’s doesn’t tie reimbursement rates to those of Medicare, which made it more palatable to two committee Democrats.
Steve Kornacki explains how this was all expected and how the four-hour debate was basically just senators reading from their respective scripts. (Schumer did bait Republican Chuck Grassley into saying Medicare–a public health care plan–is “part of the social fabric of America,” which might come in handy at some point.)
The important wrangling will come when Democrats in the Senate have to hammer today’s Finance bill–and another one from the Health Committee that does include a public option–into a consensus bill. As Senate majority leader, that process falls to Harry Reid, who the Times says won’t include a public option in the compromise bill, according to his aides. Reid might be aiming for the lowest common deonominator, in order to secure all 60 Democratic votes–the bare minimum Democrats need to prevent a Republican filibuster.
But whatever bill emerges from the Senate will then have to be reconciled with the House bill, where a more liberal Democratic caucus could include a strong public option like Rockefeller’s. When that happens, Democrats in Congress might be looking for a compromise bill–one that includes a weakened public option like, say, the one floated by Senator Schumer this afternoon.