We all know that U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut's independent-minded junior senator, has declared that he will side with Republicans in trying to filibuster the proposed health care bill because it contains a public option. For Lieberman, it's a matter of conscience.
Without Lieberman or some Republicans, the Democrats simply can't muster the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster.
But that may not matter.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, an East Hartford Democrat who is the fourth-ranking leader in the House, said today that maybe Americans need a filibuster in the Senate so they can focus on the issue and see where they stand.
He said he hopes the majority, who want passage, can prevail.
But if they can't, there is another way.
Larson said senators who back the health care plan need to do whatever they must to pass something so the bill can go to a conference committee where Senate and House members will hash out a joint measure.
"Get the bill to conference," Larson said.
What happens to the bill that emerges from conference is what really matters. And the Senate rules don't allow filibusters on measures coming out of conference, so a bare majority can prevail.
That means, to put it baldly, that if the Senate strips out the public option in order to secure the bill's passage -- something Lieberman would likely vote for -- the conference committee can put the public option back in.
Larson said that with the president backing it and four of the five congressional committees that studied the proposal endorsing it, the public option is a pretty good bet to emerge as part of the final bill.
"The public option is what makes the bill," Larson said. "It provides the competition."
You don't have to be a political insider to see how this is going to play out.
A health care plan with a public option is likely to emerge from Congress within a few months.
For Larson, that's a necessity.
"This is an economic and health care Katrina. The system's broke," Larson said.
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org