Shifting back to the other reform fight

SHIFTING BACK TO THE OTHER REFORM FIGHT…. For about two weeks, much of the fight surrounding health care reform has been about abortion. Now that we have a sense of where that dispute is headed, it’s a good time to get back to the other health care reform fight.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, met on Monday night with a group of liberal Senate Democrats who urged Mr. Reid not to back down from his decision to put a government-run insurance plan, or public option, in the major health care legislation that he is working to finalize.

Mr. Reid has said that he would include a public plan in the bill with a provision for states to opt out if they do not want to offer it. But Mr. Reid is still short at least 3 of the 60 votes he needs on a motion to bring the health care bill up for debate.

An aide to Mr. Reid said that the majority leader remained committed to retaining the public plan as he worked to secure the final votes.

The meeting was held at the request of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) of Ohio, one of the Senate’s more forceful advocates of the public option. The point, apparently, was to remind the leadership that reform advocates have already compromised quite a bit to get to this point, and they’re not especially inclined to compromise even more, especially since a clear majority of the Senate is fully on board with the existing Democratic plan.

“We figure on the public option there has been a lot of compromise already,” Brown said. “People who oppose the public option, you know, the overwhelming number of Republicans — maybe all of them — and the couple or three Democrats, will have their chance on the floor to do amendments.”

Brown also emphasized the record of progressive compromises: “A large number of people in this country including many, many doctors wanted Medicare for all. That didn’t happen. Then we wanted a strong public option tied to Medicare rates. Then we wanted a public option building the Medicare network. That didn’t happen. Now we are saying public option coming out of the HELP Committee. And now we’re saying public option with the state opt-out. Where was the compromise coming from their side?”

The problem, of course, is that having “only” 56 votes in the Senate isn’t enough, at least according to the twisted version of the legislative process currently guiding the chamber. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told MSNBC last night that the caucus is “working on it,” but they’re “struggling.”

One possible avenue going forward: “[S]imply leaving the ball in the moderates’ court.” It’s an approach that tells Nelson, Lincoln, Landrieu, and Lieberman that the weight of history rests on their willingness to break a Republican filibuster and let the Senate vote on health care.