Monday, August 17, 2009

Can House Democrats Force the Inclusion of a Public Option?

After yesterday when Kathleen Sebelius stated that the public option was not "essential" to passing health care legislation, the Obama Administration has now come out with the message that President Obama still "favors" a public plan. As I mentioned earlier, just because Obama favors this option doesn't necessarily mean that he would draw a line in the sand by vetoing legislation that didn't contain a public option. These are two very different things.

While my tone earlier today was one of frustrated inevitability, Jane Hamsher makes a valid point about the basic math of the situation. As she points out, there are not enough votes for a health care bill without a public option in the House:

There are 435 seats on the House. Of those, 257 are filled by Democrats and 178 by Republicans. Which means a majority is 218. The Republicans have vowed to vote against health care, period. The Democrats can pass health care on their own, but if they lose 40 of their own, they only have 217 votes.

There are 57 Democrats who signed the July 30 letter saying that they "simply cannot vote" for a bill that "at minimum" does not have a public plan (PDF). There are 7 more not listed on the letter who have pledged to vote against any bill that does not have a robust public plan. That makes 64 Democrats who won't vote for the "co-ops" that both Kathleen Sibelius and Robert Gibbs say the White House is "open" to.

Do the math: 257 - 64 = 193. They need 218 to pass the bill.

So thanks to the progressive members of the House who have pledged to vote against any health care bill that does not have a public plan. They represent 76% of Americans who want a public plan, and coming from heavily Democratic-leaning districts as they do, an even greater percentage of their own constituents.

UPDATE: Hamsher was on MSNBC this afternoon discussing health care:

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