Senator Blanche Lincoln announced this afternoon that she will vote to open debate on the Senate health care package:
Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a yes for debating health reform, but a no for the public option, and she and fellow centrists are making clear they expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to scrap his current plan for a government-run insurance program.
Lincoln (D-Ark.) announced Saturday that she’d deliver the deciding vote to push forward with a sweeping health reform plan, ending days of speculation over whether President Barack Obama’s signature priority would proceed to the Senate floor or suffer a debilitating blow.
But Lincoln and fellow moderate Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) also laid down strong objections to the public health insurance plan included in the Senate bill – saying they couldn’t support the bill if it came to the floor in that form.
“I am opposed to a new government administered public health care plan as a part of comprehensive health care reform, and I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by Leader Reid as it is written,” Lincoln said.
Lincoln, who is facing a tough-reelection fight in 2010, also put fellow Democrats on notice about the political stakes in her race — saying she’s already faced some $3.3 million in ads trying to sway her vote on the bill, from the left and the right.
And she laid down a laundry list of concerns, most of which also are shared by her fellow centrists – that the bill not increase the deficit, protects seniors on Medicare, makes insurance more affordable for small businesses and enhances competition with private insurers, all without a public option.
And, Landrieu and Lincoln aren’t alone in signaling that their yes vote today is not necessary an indication of how they’ll vote in the future:
For a day at least, Reid could breathe a sigh of relief, having passed a major test of his leadership by holding together 58 Democrats and 2 independents on a bill that doesn’t pass muster with many of them.
Two of those planning to vote yes today – Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) have already said they’d join a filibuster of the bill, Nelson to strengthen its abortion restrictions and Lieberman to stop the public option. Lieberman has said he believes other Democrats would do the same, though none warned of that in remarks Saturday.
My guess is that we’ll get some kind of bill out of the Senate that they’ll call “health care reform,” but that it’s likely to be far different from the House bill that pass earlier this month. For one thing, you won’t see any public option.
Between that, and the fact that the left has made it clear that they intend to renew the battle over abortion funding that was temporarily resolved by the Stupak Amendment means that this fight is far from over and that the odds of anything getting signed into law in December are still very, very low.