The Los Angeles Times reports that President Obama is quietly trying to shore up support for some form of a public option. "In the last week, however, senior administration officials have been holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the healthcare bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to bring to the Senate floor this month, according to senior Democratic congressional aides. Among those regularly in the meetings are Obama's top healthcare advisor, Nancy-Ann DeParle; aides to Reid; and staff from the Senate Finance and Health committees, both of which developed healthcare bills."
Previously, the Obama administration has relied on a bipartisan group of governors to support his various legislative initiatives; but on health care (in particular Medicaid), he could find bipartisan opposition as state governments worry about how to pay for an expansion of Medicaid.
Meanwhile, despite assurances from Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus that he had the votes to pass his bill in the committee two Democrats are support from the final product, Rockefeller and Wyden. Both Democrats had amendments defeated or withdrawn during the markup process.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on the spot with health care; it's perhaps the biggest test of his tenure as Leader. "Any one change could lose a senator, and losing even one could be fatal. Move too far to the left and a moderate Democrat like Ben Nelson of Nebraska could rebel. Too far to the right, and a liberal like Ron Wyden of Oregon could be alienated. And then there's perhaps the most important senator of all, Olympia Snowe of Maine, virtually the only Republican seen as a possible "yes" vote on the health care bill. Reid will need to bring her along every step of the way."
Baucus and Reid are "approaching a breaking point" over inclusion of the public option in a final Senate proposal. While Reid "deferred the issue" to Baucus over the summer, the leader indicated last week "that he is prepared to join Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who both pushed a public option amendment that failed in a committee vote last Tuesday."
Reid and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), also a strong supporter of the public option, indicated that in order to attract centrist Democrats wary of the public option, that they would be open to "[wrapping] the controversial elements of reform in a politically attractive message to the centrists' conservative-leaning constituents. That could include the addition of provisions aimed directly at problems or issues in each Senator's state, such as tweaks to state funding formulas for federal programs, aides said."
Despite Congressional Democrats' overall support of a government-run health insurance program, they are "are deeply divided about the policy and politics of the public option." Citing proposals from Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Tom Carper, (D-DE), The Hill writes," they're going to have to figure something out. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, all of whom support the public option, cannot afford to brush aside the liberals who compose the majority of their party. But the centrists represent a crucial voting bloc in the House and a handful of much-needed votes in the Senate."
Roll Call compares the current Republican strategy to combat the Obama administration's initiatives to that of the GOP in 1994. "Republicans faced a popular Democratic president pursuing a series of high-profile legislative reforms. And in both cases, Republicans used a combination of substantive policy critiques and short-lived scandals — such as 1993's Travelgate or this year's dust-up over "green jobs czar" Van Jones — to try to weaken Democrats. And, both then and now, health care reform has been at the center of the debate…Republicans and Democrats alike said the similarities are largely a result of how the two parties are hard-wired — with Democrats better-suited for targeted, focused fights while Republicans thrive in an open warfare situation."