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Lieberman Leaves the Public Option in Doubt

Public option supporters who have looked at TWI’s Senate Public Option Scoreboard in the past few hours are probably dismayed to see that the math simply doesn’t add up for passage of health reform legislation with a government-run health insurance plan. That’s the result of comments today by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who basically nixed the already-slim chance that he’d support cloture for a bill with a public plan.

Can he support a public option if states could opt out of the plan, as the current bill provides? “The answer is no,” he says in an interview from his Senate office. “I feel very strongly about this.” How about a trigger, a mechanism for including a public option along with a provision saying it won’t be used unless private insurance plans aren’t spreading coverage far and fast enough? No again.

So any version of a public option will compel Mr. Lieberman to vote against bringing a bill to a final vote? “Correct,” he says.

Consequently, we’re left with 41 senators likely to oppose cloture for a bill with a public option, meaning that unless one of these senators changes his or her stance, there’s no way such a bill can win the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster and receive a final up-or-down vote.

Either someone’s going to have to budge, or we’ll see a revised bill that lacks a public option (but might contain a trigger or another mechanism to pressure insurance companies to contain costs) — or Democrats could attempt to pass a public option through the budget reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority.

Keep checking the Senate Public Option Scoreboard for the latest updates.

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