Friday, August 28, 2009

Sen. Warner And The Public Option

Our junior Senator certainly likes blazing his own path. He ran against the unbeatable John Warner in 1996, when most people thought it was a fool's errand. Though he lost, he did a lot better than people expected, and set himself up for his governor's race in 2001. In that race, he defied expectations by gathering a lot of Republican support for his candidacy. He ended his term defying expectations further by helping his Lt. Governor ascend to the office after him, when most national pundits had written Virginia off as as Republican as any state in the union.

Sen. Warner is now defying expecations on health care reform, and specifically, the public insurance option. His corporate supporters have generally been against the idea, setting the expectation he would oppose it. His activist supporters (myself included) have been bombarding his office telling him to support it. Sen. Warner has Solomonically split the difference.
Last night, at John Bell's fundraiser, Senator Warner said to a group of people that, in the end, he would not vote against health care reform containing the public option. I didn't report that immediately for two reasons: 1) I wasn't there when he said it, but heard it secondhand; and 2) I wasn't sure if it was on or off the record. Well now, after just getting off the phone with Senator Warner's office, I can confirm that this is correct information - in the end, the public option is not a "make or break" for Warner one way or the other and he WILL vote for a health care reform bill with a public option in there. Good news. - Blue Virginia
First, great kudos to Lowell for this pretty significant scoop. Second, greater kudos to everyone who has written letters, made phone calls, written emails, and voted for resolutions asking Sen. Warner to speak out in favor of the Public Option.

This statement from Sen. Warner does some interesting things to the political calculus in the Senate. Chris Bowers at OpenLeft explains.
As originally reported by Blue Virginia, Senator Mark Warner has confirmed that he will not vote against a public option, and will vote in favor of a public option that holds down the cost of premiums. While this is not equal to a full statement of triggerless public option support that we had been seeking, as I discussed last night, during our final push to 50, it is good enough to remove Warner from the "maybe" column, and place him in a new category ("won't vote against") that is equivalent to "yes." Let me explain why.

First, a public option will keep down costs, as even opponents of the plan admit. In fact, that is the main argument against a public option--it would offer such low cost health insurance that people would leave private insurers in droves. Second, saying you will not vote against a health care bill with a public option means either that you will vote "yes" when presented with such a bill, or not vote at all. However, not voting on legislation of this historic magnitude is, at best, an extremely remote possibility for any Senator. - Chris Bowers, OpenLeft
Thank you, Senator Warner, for listening and going on the record with your current thoughts on the public option. Please come all the way over to full support for the public option. America needs it now.

By the way, as Lowell reported, Sen. Warner made the critical statement at a fundraiser for local candidate, John Bell, who is taking on the paleoconservative Bob Marshall. Go give John some love, it's because of him and his event that we are one small step closer to real health reform.

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