House Leadership Deciding Now on Public Option

House Leadership met this afternoon to make the decision on the merged bill that will be the one they take to the floor. An announcement on their decision is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10:00 eastern, but we'll probably be hearing leaks any time now.

What we'll probably hear is that the public option will be based on negotiated rates, rather than the robust public option based on Medicare rates plus 5% that the progressive caucus has been supporting. I say probably, because the whip count on this has been all over the place. Yesterday, Greg Sargent raised some panic over a whip list showing that the robust public option didn't have the votes. However, that list is now being disputed by its source, Majority Whip Clyburn [update, to be clear, Clyburn's staffer, Kristie Greco, didn't publicly dispute the numbers Greg reported].

The names on the list do raise questions. For example, Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) is listed as a no. But Altmire says he's told leadership that he's fine with a Medicare-based public option. He opposes the bill as it stands because of cost and because it includes an income surtax.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) is listed as "leaning no," even though she and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) co-authored an op-ed earlier this month supporting the "robust" option. It was titled, "Why We're Breaking With the Blue Dogs on the Public Option."

It's been a completely moving target, which is why you haven't seen any whip lists for calls appearing in the blogosphere. It's just not been at all clear who we should be calling. Which is how it works when you get down to the last handful of people on a bill of this magnitude. Some are just constitutionally opposed to being nailed down on a position and some are trying for their own quid pro quo and want to keep a negotiating position open.

The numbers are so close on these votes, House leadership is in a bind of trying to figure out exactly what could pass.

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