I was a little surprised by the headline in today’s Washington Post that read: “Health Bill’s Prospects Improve as Lieberman Signals Support.” (The online version had a more muted headline, reading “Obama urges Senate to pass health-care bill; Lieberman signals support.”) While it is true that Lieberman is now signaling support for a bill without a public option and without a Medicare option, I am not sure how the Senate Democrats are any better off than they were last week before they announced the deal.
Last week, the Democrats seemed torn, with some members, such as Lieberman, adamantly against a public option, and others, like Burris, adamantly for it. Reid announced his grand deal on Tuesday, which substituted a Medicare buy-in for the public option. This bargain, which was no bargain to begin with, fell apart as Lieberman declared that he would not support the Medicare expansion. The Left pilloried Lieberman, but he held his ground, and the bill now looks pretty much the same as it did before the grand bargain, with one difference: The Democrats have lost a precious week in the process.
The plan now is to vote on December 23, which is very high-risk strategy. If it fails, the whole issue moves into next year, and the deeper into next year’s election cycle this gets, the harder it will be to pass something.