Last night, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos appeared on The O’Reilly factor and echoed a growing conventional wisdom.
“It’s pretty clear right now that there aren’t the votes in the senate to pass a public health insurance option as much as a majority of Democrats in the House would like it,” he said. “It’s not going to get through the Senate right now and I think that what Democrats may try to do is remind people of another side of the Kennedy legacy. That was Kennedy the compromiser. Kennedy the negotiator. The man who was willing to take a portion, incremental gain even if he couldn’t get everything he was calling for.”
Both of those ideas–that the Senate will not pass a public option, and that Ted Kennedy would support giving up on it–are pretty deeply seeded in the media at this point. But compare that to Lawrence O’Donnell–chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee during the Clinton Care years–who says that’s all wrong.“Senator Kennedy…is not an easy compromiser on health care reform. In 1994, I was in the room when he told the president that he believed the strategy should be a Democrats-only strategy and that we should not be trying to reach out and get Republican votes.”
Separately from Kennedy, we noted yesterday that though there may be some public option skepticism in the Senate Democratic caucus, almost none of its members are willing to absolutely disavow voting for a health care bill that creates one. Contrast that to the situation in the House, where over 60 Democrats have said they’ll vote against a health care bill if it doesn’t have a public option. At the very least, this suggests that Democratic leaders are faced with a Catch-22–not that the Senate is “pretty clear[ly]” against it and Democrats should just learn to live with that.