I’ve been ringing the alarm bell about this, but now that I’ve watched Sebelius, I think the whole thing’s a lame bluff. Note well how she qualifies her reply to Maddow: Yeah, sure, we’re totally open to a public plan — so long as there’s a majority in the Senate that’ll go for it. Which is her way of hinting (a) that The One’s not going to push them on this (which is true to form, much to the left’s dismay) and (b) there almost certainly isn’t a majority in the Senate that’ll go for it. Open Left is touting the fact that 20 Dems have apparently now endorsed using reconciliation to pass the public option, but as Karl pointed out to me last night, those in the know have been warning progressives for weeks that they don’t have 50 votes to do it. No wonder, then, that a public plan isn’t mentioned in the NYT’s story about Obama writing up a compromise bill to present at next week’s health-care photo op summit:

Democratic officials said the president’s proposal was being written so that it could be attached to a budget bill as a way of averting a Republican filibuster in the Senate. The procedure, known as budget reconciliation, would let Democrats advance the bill with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority.

Congressional Democrats, however, have not yet seen the proposal or signed on

“It will be a reconciliation bill,” one Democratic aide said. “If Republicans don’t come with any substantial offers, this is what we would do.”…

The president’s plan would require most Americans to obtain health insurance or face financial penalties; it would bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions, and it would give tax subsidies to help moderate-income people buy private insurance.

Officials said the president’s bill was expected to include a version of the Senate’s proposed tax on high-cost, employer-sponsored insurance policies. It would reflect a deal reached with labor union leaders to limit the impact of the tax on workers.

Abortion’s still a “wild card.” As for the recent murmuring about the public option, besides being a cheap and easy way for lefty senators to prove their progressive bona fides to liberals, it’s probably just kabuki aimed at giving Democrats something they can fake-concede at the health-care summit to prove to America what gentle, compromising souls they all are. Imagine how patriotic hearts will swell when Durbin and Schumer and Russ Feingold decide that, in the interest of glorious bipartisanship, they’re going to give up the dream of a government plan that they, er, couldn’t pass anyway.

One last question, though. How can they have 50 votes to pass The One’s ObamaCare bill but not have 50 votes to pass the public option? Which Democrats are willing to swallow the poison pill of voting for a bill that’s politically toxic but aren’t willing to vote for a bill that’s a tiny bit more politically toxic (or, actually, a tiny bit less politically toxic)?

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