Dodd Staying Strong to the Public Option

Chris Dodd is effectively running the HELP Committee and quarterbacking the movement of their healthcare reform legislation. While the bill they have out so far does not have a public health insurance option, Dodd and other Democrats have repeatedly assured the public that it will be added by amendments. Thus far there are already in the neighborhood of 300-400 amendments to the bill, with many more expected before it leaves the HELP committee. What happens next is critically important, which is why it’s good to see Dodd guest blogging on My Left Nutmeg in support of the public health insurance option.  What’s less reassuring is his candor about there being such strong opposition to the public option.

But, as frustrating as it is to you and to me, I don’t know if we have the votes to pass a strong public health care option. What I do know is that whether we can get there or not is still an open question. What I do know is that I plan to fight hard to convince my colleagues on the committee and in the full Senate that we need a public option. What I do know is that I’m going to need your help. …

You and I are both committed to fighting for that bill to contain a strong public option so that we can keep costs down and offer more and better choices to American families.

It’s not confidence inspiring, but since Dodd is running the show in Kennedy’s absence from HELP, it is important. After all, if the guy shepherding the legislation through is saying he’ll do everything he can to get the public option in, then there’s little much else we can ask of him. If the HELP bill does not include an amendment covering the public option, it will be because all the Committee’s Republican members and at least one Democrat stood in its way. There will be inevitable questions about why it wasn’t included in the first place in that event; after all, we’ve been told it’s for strategic reasons to prevent the GOP and the insurance lobby from having something specific to attack. That always struck me as a big gamble and right now, it seems very uncertain as to whether or not it will pay off.

In my experience, you win in politics when you fight with conviction for what you believe. The video above shows Dodd as strong as anyone in the Senate on the public option. But at this point, I have to wonder if it’s going to be too hard to overcome Republican obstructionism and the cowardice of a few conservative Democrats. The fetishization of bipartisanship has already cut the public option out of the Finance Committee’s draft legislation.  So if this all fails, I can’t see how it could be reasonably put at Dodd’s feet. Instead I’d look to blame those who demanded Republican participation in the legislation that comes out of the Senate and in so doing, dismisses the will of the American public, which is overwhelmingly in favor of the public health insurance option.

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