Senate Negotiations Clear As Mud

Well this is as clear as mud. Greg Sargent explains the confusion of the conflicting reports on exactly what is in the compromise in regards to a triggered public option.


A senior Senate aide just gave me an insider account of why there’s all this confusion, and it’s worth pondering, because it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Here’s what happened. During the internal debates of the so-called Gang of 10 — the group selected to work out a compromise — over how to do the national, non-profit plan that has now been announced, Senators presumed throughout that there would be a triggered public option as a fallback.

There was contentious debate, however, over what kind of trigger to use, the aide says. One idea was the Federal triggered public option. Another idea was a kind of state-based trigger. While the details of the latter idea are murky, the basic concept was that if certain affordability goals weren’t met within particular states, a trigger would compel state governments to offer a public option. Something along those lines.

On Tuesday night, just before the news broke of the compromise, the Senators kicked all staff out of the negotiating room, the aide said. That meant that staffers who were talking on background to reporters didn’t know what final decision had been reached.

What’s more, this aide asserts, Harry Reid, keeping it close to the vest, never made it clear to his fellow Senators which public option he would send to the CBO for scoring.

Result: Senators drew their own conclusions about what Reid had decided on, and from there, the confusion spread rapidly. Only Reid himself knows what version, or versions, he sent to the CBO, the aide says.

OK, then.

I'd say that this has gotten farcical, but I think we already reached that level some time back. Let's just try to sum up. Lieberman finds any trigger, whichever Reid decided to include, an "irritant" and says he'll filibuster. Snowe says no Medicare buy-in, and Lieberman is threatening to jump ship on that, too. Landrieu and Lincoln are still playing coy, and Ben Nelson is still stuck on Stupak. There are progressives with problems with the buy-in as well.

Can we have a new Senate for Christmas? This one is broken.

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