We Could Have Had a Public Option: Then Some Senators Lied to Us
I've seen a few post-mortems of the public option campaign kicking around the Internets. Invariably, as more are written, some will blame the people leading the campaign for not adopting different tactics which, the authors of the post-mortems will claim, could have led to victory.
Before this line of writing becomes too widespread, we all need to remember that the only reason we didn't win the public option campaign was because a few Senators lied to us. Unless someone can think of ways to have prevented them from lying, then these post-mortems will be useless.
Back on May 21st, there were only 28 Senators in support of a triggerless public option. Through your tireless participation in a whip count effort, by October 8th we raised that number to 51 when Jon Tester came out in support. By October 30th, when Evan Bayh said he wouldn't filibuster, we were up to 56 Democrats for cloture on health care reform with a public option.
From that point, the only four Senators we still needed all lied to us in one form or another. Both Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln signed a document stating that they supported a public option, only to reverse their positions. Blanche Lincoln's website still comically claimed she supported a public option even as she was declaring her opposition to one on the Senate floor.
Still, Landrieu, Lincoln and Ben Nelson were all part of the group of ten Senators who forged a deal on the public option that included a Medicare buy-in. Further, immediately after that deal was reached, Harry Reid contacted Joe Lieberman to see if he liked the deal. Lieberman told Harry Reid that he was liking what he was seeing, and just wanted to wait for the CBO report. Further, Lieberman had supported an even stronger Medicare buy-in (for Americans aged 50-64) as recently as September 2009.