A Grand Achievement, or a Lost Opportunity?

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A Grand Achievement, or a Lost Opportunity?

The New York Times – WASHINGTON — When the last swords in the great health care clash finally clatter to the ground, and Congressional Democrats head home to savor their victory, a question that may still nag at them — and the party’s liberal base — is whether they missed a last, best chance to create the government-run insurance plan known as the public option.

For many Democrats, the public option was the be-all and end-all of the health care debate for much of the past year. Even after President Obama, in a speech to a joint session of Congress in September, said he could live without it, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats battled to keep it in the legislation.

But Wednesday night, as the Senate stood on the verge of approving the budget reconciliation bill with the final health care revisions, Democrats resisted a late, last round of pressure from liberal advocates to include the public option in the legislation, saying they were willing to take their winnings and call it a day.

In a show of self-restraint, the Democrats said they had agreed among themselves to resist the temptation to make any amendments and would work to approve the bill without any changes that would require it to be sent back to the House for another vote. The public option, they said, could wait for another day, another vote, another fight — even though the parliamentary process playing out on the Senate floor gave them a rare chance to enact it with a simple majority, a chance unlikely to come around again soon.

“We want to get this done,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, who at one point in the debate had declared that the public option would become law and there would be no further concessions on it. “We want this bill to pass in a good form. Everybody wants to get this done. The president wants to get it done this week. Harry Reid does. I do. We all do.”

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