Makes your head spin. The Democrats were too feckless to pass health care reform legislation even when they enjoyed a 60-vote super-majority in the Senate. And now that they are weaker after Scott Brown's surprise victory in Massachusetts and an increasingly demoralized liberal base, they decide that it's the right time to get back into the ring?
It could be that the blabosphere prematurely concluded that the White House had little heart left for the fight. Maybe Rahm Emanuel passed around DVDs of the movie "Patton" because Democrats also are talking publicly about using the budget reconciliation process to pass the proposal into law. So far, 18 senators have signed a petition calling on Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid to use reconciliation to push health care reform through the chambers.
Appearing on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent up a clear signal about the White House's thinking:
"Maddow: "The private insurance company writ large hasn't done a great job. That's why we want a public option to compete with them. These 18 Democratic senators want to bring that back into the fold. If that happened, would the administration fight for it?"
Sebelius: "Well, I think if it's...Certainly. If it's part of the decision of the Senate leadership to move forward, absolutely."
Speaking for the Senate leadership, Reid signaled on Friday that he's on the same page. A statement from his office reads:
"If a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care, Senator Reid will work with the White House, the House, and members of his caucus in an effort to craft a public option that can overcome procedural obstacles and secure enough votes."
I wonder whether that also means the White House plans to dust off its ideas for a public option.(We'll learn more on Monday when the details get posted online.) All this comes less than a week before the ballyhooed "bipartisan" summit meeting with the Republicans. For the record, Republican Whip Eric Cantor is already screaming bloody murder about using budget reconciliation (which would require a simple majority of 50-plus one votes.) Ditto for right-wing blogs, like AllahPundit, who dismisses the latest chatter about the use of reconciliation as "a lame bluff."
From my bloodsucker's view in the 4th Estate's gallery, it doesn't get any better than this - assuming that the GOP doesn't pull out in protest. If he needs extra incentive to get it done now, the president should load up YouTube with this oldie but goodie. It was only one year ago that CNBC's Rick Santelli's anti-government tirade went viral. At the time, the president and his party were still riding high in opinion polls. That was a fleeting moment. One takeaway from that experience: public sentiment today often says little about what it might support tomorrow.