I suppose anything can happen, but when President Obama says that the public option is only one part of the healthcare reform equation and that reform can happen without it, that sounds to me like he doesn't have the votes to get a public option through Congress. (Nate Silver offers up his usual brilliant analysis of the numbers here.)
Christ, those Blue Dog Democrats suck.
I don't think Obama has any other choice, frankly, than to try to do damage control at this point. Somehow, he lost control of the argument (which is very unlike him), and somehow his own party has betrayed him.
If nothing happens on healthcare (one of the President's signature issues, that he's invested a tremendous amount of political capital in) that will be a tremendous defeat for the administration. As devastating a blow as it was to the Clinton White House. As devastating as social security reform was to Bush.
From a political stand point, Obama has to pass something -- even if it's a splotchy, half-measure that's far more stupidly designed than it needs to be.
This is very disappointing. The insurance lobby has essentially won the day. (As has a mob of such bottomless stupidity, it boggles the mind.) America will continue pissing perfectly good money down the toilet on healthcare for no reason and, in all probability, not all Americans will get coverage.
That being said, half-assed reform is certainly worth doing, even without the public option. Insurance companies can be forbidden from denying coverage for preexisting conditions (which would be great). Rates can be regulated (which would also be great). And more people will undoubtedly get on the rolls than were there before. It might not be full coverage for every American, but at this point I'll take what I can get.
But the thing that absolutely kills me about this is the fact that the people who have essentially driven the knife in the public option are Democrats.
Obviously, Democrats have regional concerns. And, it's probably true, in 2011 Congress will undoubtedly have more Republicans than it does in 2009. Democrats should certainly keep these things in mind before they condemn each and every Blue Dog. If Ben Nelson will absolutely lose his seat if he votes yes on healthcare reform, it's probably worth letting him vote no on it. (The Democrats don't need 60 votes on everything -- just on stopping a filibuster.)
But the reason why I find this whole situation depressing is because my instinct is that certain Senators can vote yes and still keep their seats -- they'd just rather not piss off contributors from the insurance lobby. Does Mark Warner really have no way of raising campaign contributions other than to vote no on the public option? Of course he does.
Sometimes I really do wish Democrats were a little more like Republicans. Nobody would be falling out of line if Tom Delay were the majority whip right now.