Public option will win

Until then, groups representing workers, consumers, health advocates, minorities, progressives and many centrists who constitute the large public option majority should and will be deluging Congress with calls, letters, e-mails and television ads.

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I agree with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who told “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) should be applauded for the guts he showed in championing a public option for the full Senate. His plan would create a public option that allows states to opt out. Reid is right. He is inches from having 60 votes to end any filibuster, even while the president wavers.

Real hardball means telling the truth: The president always intended to sell out the public option to get 30 Republican votes, then 15, now one. The president’s aides insult those who support the public option.

They call public option supporters “the left of the left” even though it is supported by nearly 60 percent of the nation, which makes it the center of the center. They hint the president prefers the trigger that is an insurance industry gambit to legalize a license for abuse.

With Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) so close to winning in the House and Reid so close to winning in the Senate, the president’s support for the Reid initiative can bring a great victory and elevate the trajectory of his presidency.

The president needs to fight for the public option publicly and call a handful of senators privately and say this: “Your president needs you. This is the moment. Vote to end the filibuster. Get us 60 votes. Then do what you want after that.”

The public option will win, because it is an idea whose time has come. The public option will win because its supporters have won the battle of ideas in a knockout verdict by voters that politicians ignore at their peril.

The public option will win because it lowers the cost of the bill and allows states that don’t want it to opt out. Under the Reid plan, more than 40 states would fully join the public option, and in many states politicians who favor opting out will be defeated because they do.

A senator filibustering the public option must believe that the strong majority of voters should be treated with contempt, the majority of his or her colleagues in both houses of Congress should be ignored and the large majority of states that want the public option should be overruled by the small minority that doesn’t, even though those states can opt out.

For months the pundits, experts and strategists who pronounced the public option dead were dead wrong. A good public option will pass the Senate; a good version will pass the House; the final version will be strong. It will be enacted into law, and while the president may not be a tough enough negotiator just yet, he will get his one Republican, and a few more, with a bill that includes a real public option.


Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.