THE ELUSIVE ‘CONSENSUS’…. Listening to the morning shows, it sounds as if the chances of a public option in health care reform are bad and getting worse. Opponents continue to demand the provision be dropped, and supporters continue to argue a reform bill can still have merit without the measure. If the overall effort’s chances of passage have gone up this week, the odds of a voluntary public option being included in the final bill are more remote.

This item stood out.

Key senators said Sunday the “public option” favored by House Democrats for healthcare is all but dead, but a pivotal Republican said it’s not dead enough.

President Barack Obama “should take it off the table,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It would give real momentum to building consensus.”

Actually, it wouldn’t. We already know it wouldn’t, because when the White House signaled a willingness to drop the public option a few weeks ago, Republican lawmakers said it wasn’t enough to gain their support. More to the point, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said there’s nothing Dems could do to earn GOP votes for reform.

How would it “give real momentum to building a consensus”? The Baucus Plan doesn’t have a public option. Did it give the proposal real momentum? Did a single Republican lawmaker endorse the plan? Not. In fact, two of the three Republican members of the Gang of Six responded that the bill still doesn’t meet their standards.

Here’s a radical thought: what are Republicans willing to put on the table? President Obama is supposed to take off the table a public option, a co-op, single-payer, funding for abortion, tax increases, deficit spending, exchange eligibility for undocumented workers, and reimbursements for voluntary end-of-life care.

“Building consensus” is Obama’s job? Is it so unreasonable to expect at least a little give and take between the large majority party and the small, discredited minority?

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.