For Democrats determined to get a health care bill, Sen. Roland Burris is like the house guest who couldn't be refused, won't soon be leaving and poses a plausible threat of ruining holiday dinner.
Suddenly, he can no longer be ignored.
The Illinois Democrat, appointed by disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, says he'll only vote for a bill to provide health care to millions more Americans as long as it allows the government to sell insurance in competition with private insurers.
Max Baucus has stated there aren't enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill with the public option. If Burris holds to his guns, then there aren't enough votes unless the public option is in there. You can see how that's a problem.
I won't speculate on whether or not Burris is serious. Furthermore, there's a number of things that the leadership can do to either placate him or simply remove him. The article points out that leadership has an unwritten agreement with him that 1) he stays around for the two years he's supposed and no more and 2) he does nothing to rock the boat. Clearly, he's rocking the boat and so the leadership can do things to stop him. Of course, if that's the case, that will get ugly and the Democratic party will be the one that gets hurt.
More than that, this is yet another sign that the public option has wound up splitting the Democratic party. In politics, if you engage in jujitsu, then you are able to split your opponents. You propose legislation that gets some of the opposition to support and some to oppose. That's how you win.
In this case, the public option has split the Democratic party. The Republicans don't like the bill with or without it. They're united. The Democrats can't decide if they want it in or out, and there are plenty of Dems for which this is a deal breaker. They are on both sides of this. Just as folks like Burris are saber rattling that they'll vote against any bill without the public option there are also plenty of moderates that will vote against any bill with a public option. They exist in both the House and the Senate. I believe one of the main reasons that we still have no bill is that there simply aren't the votes to get one no matter what.
The Democrats have split themselves on the public option. The President needs to head to the front of the line in blame for this. First, he obviously didn't get a feel for his caucus before pushing it. Then, his support wavered on the idea and supporters pushed back. He's still totally wishy washy. Today, the White House pronounced that they want the public option in the bill but they won't demand it. That's a signal that they will throw the public option under the bus to get a deal. It's still not taking a stand. So, it may just be a coincidence that Burris came out with this today, or it maybe that supporters of the public option are pushing back against the president.
That happens when you fail to take a stand. Because the president has refused to take a stand, he gets push back constantly. It's why nearly into November there's still no bill to look at.