Coburn/Vitter plan goes awry

COBURN/VITTER PLAN GOES AWRY…. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and David Vitter (R-La.) no doubt thought they were being clever. They crafted an amendment that would force members of Congress to get their coverage through a public insurance plan, if the public option were included as part of health care reform. If it’s good enough for American consumers, it should be good enough for their elected representatives, right?

They had no idea how much Democrats agreed with the sentiment.

As we talked about this morning, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) not only loved the idea, he wanted to join the right-wing senators as a co-sponsor on their amendment. When they refused — this was supposed to be a conservative stunt, not a real idea — Brown used procedural tactics to make himself a co-sponsor of the Coburn/Vitter measure, whether they like it or not.

Then, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she, too, wanted to join. Soon after, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) endorsed the Coburn/Vitter amendment and also asked to be a co-sponsor. “If we have a public option in this plan, as I hope that we will, I think there’s nothing wrong in insisting that members of Congress be included in that public option proposal,” Dodd said, calling the idea “wonderful.”

These guys are taking away all of Coburn’s and Vitter’s fun.

Now, it’s worth noting that the conservatives’ measure isn’t quite right. The point of a public option is choice — consumers would be given a chance to select from a series of competing plans, choosing the one that works best for them. One of the options would be a public plan. The Coburn/Vitter amendment wants to take away lawmakers’ choices and force them to get coverage through the public plan — something that wouldn’t happen to other U.S. consumers. Dems, in other words, want to give eligible Americans a choice, and these far-right Republicans want to take that choice away.

But no matter. The fun part of this is that it’s a stunt gone awry. Coburn and Vitter were probably whispering to themselves, “We’ll show them.” It didn’t occur to them that Democrats would call their bluff.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

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.