Sen. Bernie Sanders, the socialist Democrat from Vermont, suggested
Wednesday evening that he might vote against health care reform.
Sanders is the first liberal Democrat to threaten to overturn the
months-long Democratic effort to pass reform. His wavering support
comes after a long week of left-wing calls, led by Howard Dean
, to kill the bill
for being insufficiently liberal-minded. (It also comes the same day as
Sanders's amendment proposing single-payer health care was, as
.) With the loss of a single vote sufficient to doom the entire initiative, Sanders joins conservative Democrat Ben Nelson
, Independent Joe Lieberman
and Republican Olympia Snowe
in the pantheon of Senators whose personal demands must be met for
reform to pass. Is Sanders's dissent a good thing for health care, for
Democrats, or for himself?
Doesn't Matter Unless Sanders Filibusters Washington Monthly's Steve Benen reminds us, "keep in mind that Sanders hates Republican filibusters. When he
says he's 'not voting for the bill,' Sanders is almost certainly
talking about the final bill -- unlike center-right members of the
caucus, Sanders makes a distinction between the procedural vote and the
legislative vote." Benen recounts Sanders's long-held opposition to
Republican filibusters. "It's extremely unlikely that Sanders would
reverse course on this commitment." Overturning a filibuster requires
60 votes, but passing the legislation only requires 50, so if Sanders
joins Democrats on the former he can break on the latter without
endangering the bill.
...Which He Might The Plum Line's Greg Sargent reports
that his sources tell him Sanders could still vote with Republicans on
a filibuster. "Given Sanders’ longtime commitment to health care reform
payer, it seems unlikely that he’d vote against cloture in the end,
since that would sink the bill. Still, Sanders was bitterly
disappointed by the dropping of the public option, and this doesn’t
make things any easier for Reid."
- How Dems Can Win Back Sanders The Atlantic's Chris Good explains. "While Sanders is clearly disappointed that the Medicare buy-in
provision was dropped, he hasn't made up his mind to vote against it.
He is currently working to expand the role of community health centers,
and it's conceivable that changes in that area--not necessarily a
reinsertion of the Medicare buy-in proposal--could secure his vote."
- He'll Come Around Outside The Beltway's James Joyner sighs,
"My guess is that far left Democrats will vent a little while longer
ultimately support whatever compromise deal they can get." He writes,
"The most likely outcome, then, is that Senate Democrats will follow
the lead of SEIU president Andy Stern,
condemning the parts of the bill they don’t like, fighting to make it
“better,” and ultimately holding their nose and voting for the best
they can get."
- Should Sanders Act Like Lieberman? MyDD's Charles Lemon thinks
Sanders should emulate Lieberman's willingness to block legislation
unless his personal demands are met. "It is only folks like Senator
Lieberman and Senator Nelson who seek
to hold the nation hostage and not permit an up or down vote.
Personally, I see this as a welcomed development. I'd rather have the
leadership placate Bernie than appease Joe.
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