New Dem idea: Hey, let's use reconciliation to pass the public option

Why stop there? If you’re going to nuke Scotty B’s veto with a baroque parliamentary procedure in order to pass an even more statist health-care plan than what’s currently on the table, why not go for the brass ring and pass full-blown single-payer?

Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) signed a letter to Reid saying they support this plan for four reasons: the cost savings the public option is estimated to achieve, continued public support for the public option, the need for increased competition in the insurance market and the Senate’s history of using the reconciliation process for health care reform…

The letter points to the last CBS News/ New York Times poll that surveyed Americans on the public option, from Dec. 2009, which showed that 59 percent of Americans supported the public option…

The advocacy groups the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, as well as Credo Action, the grassroots political arm of the for-profit company CREDO Mobile, are promoting the letter and calling on citizens to become signatories online.

“Every day, it becomes increasingly clear that the best way to ‘fix’ the original Senate bill is to pass the highly popular public option through reconciliation,” the groups said in a statement. “It’s the populist reform that the House will need in order to pass both bills together and the key change Democratic and Independent voters will need in order to believe in health care reform again and show up in 2010.”

Here’s the thing: As nutty as this sounds to fiscal conservatives, is it really that bad of an idea politically? The public option has polled consistently well, especially vis-a-vis the toxic numbers for the overall bill. That’s due to several factors — dumb poll questions, poor GOP messaging about the slippery slope of government-run health care, and the minor detail that most of the public doesn’t understand what the public option is — but that’s beside the point. Anything Democrats can say or do to get some political traction for passing a bill, they’ll say or do, and the public plan would certainly help bring House progressives around. It’ll also drive tea partiers berserk, of course, but tea partiers are already itching to toss the Dems out so that risk is priced in. Also, with Bayh gone and pundits now speculating about the GOP taking back the Senate, increasingly November looks like a doomsday scenario for Democrats — and if the asteroid’s about to hit, why not throw caution to the wind and pass the plan you really want? (Bennet’s already committed himself to political suicide in the name of the public option.) The nutroots would be thrilled too, needless to say, so that’ll help with turnout among the base. And you could even sell it, kinda sorta, as “starting over on the bill,” which will make the GOP go ballistic but oh well. Teeny tiny insignificant exit question: Er, can reconciliation be used to pass something like the public option? Hmmmmmm.

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