Reid's Risky Public Plan Strategy


What are the risks involved in

Harry Reid is very concerned.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to push forward with a government-run health-care plan? Politico explains:

The move amounted to a major gamble by the Nevada Democrat, who is betting that he can sway the last few moderates onto his plan for a public option that would allow states to opt out by 2014.

But at the same time, Democratic Senate aides expressed worries that Reid was going too far, too fast with a strategy that allows no room for error.

And Reid's move Monday seemed at odds with President Barack Obama, who has expressed a preference for pursuing a compromise that could win a filibuster-proof majority and some bipartisan support. But by all accounts, Reid has neither at this point.

Why would the normally-cautious Reid make such a risky play? Time's Karen Tumulty offers one possibility:

Reid himself also faces what could be a difficult re-election in 2010, which could be one of the factors driving him in favor of giving the public option a shot on the Senate floor. "This is all about his home-state politics," said one senior Democratic Senate aide. "This gets the left off his back." If he can't manage to get the public option past a filibuster, Reid could at least tell the liberals in his party that he gave it his best effort.

Reid, of course, was also under substantial pressure from the liberal wing of his party to go in this direction. And now that pressure has shifted focus to the White House:

"I hope the president speaks out strongly for the public option — this health care bill really becomes his at this point," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of about 30 Democrats who have pressured Reid to back the controversial option.

"[Reid] took the temperature of his caucus and found that he had to go with the public option," added Brown. "And now it's the president's turn. … He needs to speak out strongly on a number of issues … affordability … the subsidy question — really on the whole package."