Update: List of Senators Supporting Public Option Grows to 41
UPDATE: Adam Green just confirmed that another senator has agreed to support a public option in the reconciliation package on heath-care reform, bringing the total number of public-option advocates in the Senate to 41. It's Ben Nelson of Florida, who was famously skittish about his support for health-care reform at all last summer. Nine more votes to go, and this could happen.
According to Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the list of senators who say they are willing to support a vote on the inclusion of a public health insurance plan in Senate's planned budget reconciliation health-care reform package has grown to 40 -- just 10 shy of the 50 needed to win a simple majority.
The three most recent additions include Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Jon Tester of Montana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
Included in Green's count are the 25 who have signed a letter calling for the inclusion of a public option in the reconciliation process, and an additional 15 who have expressed support for the inclusion via formal statements or remarks to reporters.
Even if the magic number is reached, there's still a hurdle to surmount: it remains unclear whether or not the Senate parliamentarian would rule a measure to include a government-run health insurance program as permissible in a reconciliation bill.
The budget reconciliation process offers a way around the 60-vote majority required in the Senate to end a filibuster. Republicans have launched filibusters on virtually all measures related to health-care reform. But, subject to the Byrd rule, a bill may only qualify as a reconciliation measure if it pertains directly to the federal budget.
While a public health insurance plan would definitely have a bearing on the federal budget, it remains unclear whether or not, as a new entitlement, it can be enacted via reconciliation. One possible way around that potential snag would be the expansion of Medicare to allow people younger than 65 to buy into the system.
Stay tuned: it's getting interesting!