Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got his 60 on Saturday, and when the Senate returns from Thanksgiving recess next week, they'll be debating and amending a major piece of health care legislation. However, the vote, and its aftermath exposed or clarified the cleavages within the Democratic party that will have to be bridged if Reid hopes to keep his caucus in line on the next cloture motion--to end a Republican filibuster and hold a simple majority vote on reform.
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If you thought the opt-out compromise was a silver bullet for the public option, you may have gotten a bit ahead of yourself. It held up for a while, and could still survive, but that's going to require some interesting gymnastics from Democratic leaders. Leading up to Saturday's vote, and in its immediate aftermath, conservative Democrats entrenched their opposition to the public option in the Senate bill. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) repeated his threat to support a health care filibuster if it includes a public option of any kind, and, despite her earlier support for the provision, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) took to the Senate floor Saturday and announced, "I'm promising my colleagues that I'm prepared to vote against moving to the next stage of consideration as long as a government-run public option is included." That gives her a bit more wiggle room than Lieberman's left himself, and Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) have a bit more still, but that makes 60 for the opt out a tough climb. On the other side of the caucus, though, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Roland Burris (D-IL) have inched closer to threatening to block a health care bill from the left if the public option is weakened further. If reform is to pass, one side of the caucus will have to hold its collective nose and vote for something they don't like.