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The Public Wants Partisan Health Care; But Will They Get It?

By Matthew Yglesias  

"The Public Wants Partisan Health Care; But Will They Get It?"

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Public opinion is in support of harsh measures to secure a public option:

“Which of these would you prefer – (a plan that includes some form of government-sponsored health insurance for people who can’t get affordable private insurance, but is approved without support from Republicans in Congress); or (a plan that is approved with support from Republicans in Congress, but does not include any form of government-sponsored health insurance for people who can’t get affordable private insurance)?”

Fifty one percent said they preferred the public option; 37 percent said they preferred a bill with some support from Republicans in Congress. Six percent said neither and seven percent expressed no opinion.

“Who will tell President Snowe and the rest of the Villagers” jokes Atrios.

I think it’s important, however, to remember that legislative outcomes are ultimately determined by raw vote counts and political power, not by semiotics and control of the media narrative. There are three ways to pass a health care bill:

One: Olympia Snowe votes for cloture.
Two: Ben Nelson votes for cloture.
Three: Fifty Democrats agree to try reconciliation.

Clearly Olympia Snowe doesn’t favor the “ignore Olympia Snowe” approach.

It’s pretty clear that there are fifty Democrats who favor a public option, and if they’re really willing to play procedural hardball there’s not much the parliamentarian or David Broder can do to stop them from enacting a bill with 50 votes. But we’ve seen very little enthusiasm for that approach, probably for reasons that have less to do with public opinion than with the fact that the 60 vote senate serves the interests of individual senators qua senators.

So you’re left with Ben Nelson—and everyone else. What does he want? Will joining with the Republicans to filibuster a health bill imperil his re-election?

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