Major Garrett’s in the hall outside the Democratic caucus room and tweeting the word from Tom Harkin. Can’t really call this good news, as it makes passage much more likely, so let’s call it slightly-better-than-worst-case-scenario news. No more public option:

Asked by a reporter if the Medicare buy-in will be pulled out, Harkin said “looks that way,” before praising a Democratic health care bill without the two public option compromises.

“There’s enough good in this bill that even without those two, we gotta move,” he said. “All the insurance reforms, all the stuff we wrote so hard for prevention and wellness in there, the workforce development issues that we have in there, the reimbursement based on quality not on quantity — there’s good stuff in this bill. It’s a giant step forward, changing the paradigm of health care in America.”

Lieberman said he can (read: will) vote for the bill without the public plan provisions. Reaction, straight off the top of my head: (1) Kind of surprising that neither Snowe nor Collins defected to bail Reid out, eh? Now that he’s back to 60-ish, I wonder if they or Nelson, Bayh, Lincoln, etc. will suddenly ramp up their own demands. (2) The Democrats are so frantic to pass something at this point — e.g., there was a rumor floated earlier today that Emanuel was pressuring Reid to use reconciliation — that Pelosi will almost certainly want to ping-pong the Senate bill. Will the absence of a public option convince Blue Dogs who voted no on the House bill to vote yes this time or will the gruesome polling scare them away? If they do vote yes, are there enough of them to make up for the number of House progressives who will surely vote no this time? (3) Further to the last point, what about the abortion conflict now? The House bill banned abortion funding, the Senate bill allows it. If Bart Stupak and his pro-life Blue Dogs are serious, they can probably kill the whole project. I wonder if Reid will let Nelson reintroduce an abortion funding ban in the Senate and force it through to eliminate that problem. I still don’t see how they’re getting this all done by New Year’s, though.

For your enjoyment, here’s video of Lieberman from September explaining why he kind of likes the idea of a, er, Medicare buy-in. His spokesman tried to explain the apparent flip-flop, but I prefer the “he screwed the Democrats just to screw them” theory. Makes me smile.