The Hill's Blog Briefing Room:
The Senate has the votes to pass a healthcare reform bill including a public option, a key Senate chairman said Tuesday.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said that the Senate "comfortably" has a majority of votes to pass the public plan, and that he believes Democrats can muster 60 votes to break a filibuster.
Harkin made the call on the Bill Press Radio Show, saying that he'd "polled senators, and the vast majority of Democrats -- maybe approaching 50 -- support a public option.. So why shouldn't we have a public option? We have the votes."
A little wheeling and dealing and there ya go. Still, a majority may pass a bill, but what about the inevitable Republican filibuster?
"I believe we'll have the 60 votes, now that we have the new senator from Massachusetts, to at least get it on the Senate floor," Harkin said. "But once we cross that hurdle, we only need 51 votes for the public option. And I believe there are, comfortably, 51 votes for a public option."
This makes some sense to me. It's one thing to vote against a bill because it contains a public option, but it's another to join in with the GOP to shut down debate because of it. No one seems extremely comfortable going home under the banner of "I helped kill healthcare reform -- vote for me!" Voting for cloture (i.e., to end the filibuster), then voting against the bill is probably the path of least resistance for middle-of-the-road types like Blue Dogs.
Also worth noting is that Harkin's assessment figures in one factor that's becoming more and more obvious; Republicans are irrelevant.