Hot diggity damn. I was tooling around Yahoo this evening, just minding my own business, when what too my wondering eyes should appear but a miniature clause in the Senate Health Care Reform Bill that would create a public option for reindeer Americans and the rest of us too.
Sorry...I just had to let that out.
But before anyone goes and puts on their happy pants and starts making appointments for backne surgery, you better pick up your phone. As it stands, Harry Reid doesn't know if he is going to be able to wrangle up the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster on the bill. And though Miss Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine voted in committee for the health care bill, she doesn't sound so tickled now that there is a public option included in the bill that will go before the entire Senate.
Confused as to how she could vote a bill that included a public option and not know it? Well. She didn't.
Harry Reid is a sly mo'fo. Basically the Senate had a whole mess of a number of bills that emerged from the Senate Health Care Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Since no one bill emerged whole from either committee that was identical, Senator Reid, as the Almighty God of the Senate, basically gets to put together what he likes from either bill (and what he thinks has the best chance of passing) and can then lay out that bill for a full Senate vote.
Now comes the tricky part.
The Senate and the House differ in a number of aspects but the two biggest differences between the Senate and the House are that in the House there can be no amendments offered to a bill that are not germane to the primary motion and there is no filibuster in the House. In the Senate there are no predetermined limits to debate unless those limits are established at the outset of debate on a bill AND once a Senator has been yielded the floor the Senator has the right to continue speaking and/or control the floor until he or she remands the remainder of his/her time back to the President of the Senate. This is where the filibuster comes in...if you can't limit debate from the outset it becomes a game of wills and stamina. Also, in the Senate almost all amendments are germane to the main motion whether or not the amendments have anything to do at all with the motion at hand. To translate from Geek Speak that means that you could be debating a bill in the Senate about Hamburger Helper and Senator X can stand up and offer an amendment to your bill that would cut off food stamps to the elderly. In the House, the rules are much more strict and if you are debating a bill on Hamburger Helper you could perhaps offer an amendment that would change it from Hamburger Helper to Tuna Helper but if you tried to shut off granny's foodstamps, your motion will be ruled out of order as being not germane to the main motion.
What this usually means is that in the Senate if the opposition wants a main motion to fail they will attach a rider to that motion that is targeted at a pet project of the majority. So now you have to vote not only on a public option but also you have to decide if the amendment that passed that will strip a federal subsidy for a rail line through your home state that your constituents want is more important to your political future than making sure that millions of uninsured, only a fraction of which are voters in your home state, have a viable public insurance option. See the trap there?
There is a way to keep those sorts of amendments from being offered (they are called riders) on the Senate floor but that takes almost as much procedural wrangling as getting a cloture vote (cloture is what the vote is called that sets a predetermined time for debate and makes a filibuster impossible, a cloture requires 60 votes, once cloture is passed then a bill only needs 51 votes to pass).
So now that we have a public option in the bill, it is time for all of us to do our work. We need to be on our Senators like a Leather Daddy on a Pig Bottom. You need to call, write, fax, and stalk your Senators and make sure they know that you will not tolerate any health care reform bill that does not include a public option. With the right amount of public pressure, Senators will tow the line. But if even one Democrat or Independent gets a bug up his or her ass and decides to not follow the Majority Leader's lead...we are up shit creek without a public option.