Why Won't Durbin Sign On To PO Through Reconciliation Push?

On Thursday, when asked about the Bennett letter pushing Senate Leader Harry Reid to offer the public option through reconciliation, Senate Whip Dick Durbin's office told the Huffington Post that Durbin "has a policy of not signing on to letters sent to leadership since, after all, he's a member of leadership." However, Senator Charles Schumer, who is also in the Senate Leadership, and the Majority leader himself have come out in support of the Bennett letter. Reid released this statement:

"If a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care, Senator Reid will work with the White House, the House, and members of his caucus in an effort to craft a public option that can overcome procedural obstacles and secure enough votes."

What explains Durbin's reluctance to publically support the public option through reconciliation? Cynical minds will note that Durbin is especially close to the White House, and will further note that the White House will not include the public option in its proposal to be unveiled next week. Since I only possess a cynical mind, I do not know what an uncynical mind might think.

Speaking for me only

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    Durbin is clearly following instructions (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by andgarden on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 10:17:20 AM EST
    from the White House. As Ezra explained (or telegraphed, at least), the WH is there is has always been, and wants rid of the PO discussion.

    This has been their MO since last summer (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 10:21:05 AM EST
    Schumer can't be leader soon enough (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by andgarden on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 10:23:01 AM EST
    Hopefully Majority Leader, but that's far from guaranteed.

    I think Reid gets rapped a bit unfairly (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 10:27:06 AM EST
    and Schumer will find that sitting on the throne is not so easy.

    That said, Schumer clearly understands sticks with carrots better than Reid does. His ability to raise ungodly sums of money gives him powerful carrots but also makes it likely that he won't be much help on reforming Wall Street.


    It may be that Majority Leader is an (none / 0) (#5)
    by andgarden on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 10:31:24 AM EST
    impossible job. I just think that Schumer is a better pol than almost anyone else in the Senate. I think he understands the political climate well enough to thread the needle on Wall Street if he has the opportunity.

    And, boy oh boy, does Schumer understand PR! n/t (none / 0) (#24)
    by jawbone on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 04:27:12 PM EST
    And yet the PO ... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Robot Porter on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 01:26:12 PM EST
    continues to rise from the dead again and again.  Jason Voorhees style.

    "Message discipline..." (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by lambert on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 11:56:53 AM EST
    seems to be the order of the day, right now.

    Here's a shockingly bad column from Krugman.

    NOTE Keeping the useless as t*ts-on-a-bull so-called "public option" firmly in place as the farthest left policy option in legitimate discourse (the Overton Window) is message discipline, so far as I'm concerned.

    A cynical mind wonders what (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by gyrfalcon on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 11:58:55 AM EST
    "If a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care" means coming from the majority leader.  "If a decision is made"?  Made by whom?  Use of the passive voice by politicians always makes me nervous.

    Wasn't the lack of reasonable substance (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 12:16:03 PM EST
    in HCR considered a primary bullet point in why Democrats have been losing in recent elections? It appears the WH has decided for themselves that the people can't tell them what to do.

    It may have been that lack, and (none / 0) (#17)
    by christinep on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 02:02:35 PM EST
    or it may also have been that so many words, messages, explanations reaped confusion. The process itself got a negative rap. I suspect that we are looking at the already-passed Senate Bill with some necessary add-ons/reconfigs...together with a straightforward statement about how the measures meet the President's previously stated goals of significantly expanding the coverage universe, eliminating/restricting certain unfair insurance practicies (read: pre-existing conditions), keeping the proposal within revenue-neutral or growth bounds, and reducing costs in the short & long run. From my point of view--sometimes "cynical" and sometimes not--the directness and digestibility (in terms of understanding) of the repackaged, driven message is central to the next few weeks. Most polls have long shown that most people fully support the individual pieces referenced above, but that trees truly did get lost in the gloom and fear that sprouted with the passage of time.

    It is as simple as (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by BTAL on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 12:19:23 PM EST
    andgarden says, Durbin won't buck Obama and the WH because reintroducing the PO will gut the deal made with the Insurance Cos. regarding the mandate.  Any option that reduces the pool makes the whole house of cards fall.  

    I personally despise the mandate but the WH can't have the insurance companies start waging a anti HCR campaign at this late stage of the game.

    Durbin and Schumer want to be Majority Leader (none / 0) (#18)
    by klassicheart on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 02:19:23 PM EST
    Durbin thinks the White House will anoint him if Reid loses, so he plays ball with Obama.  So what is the calculus? Both Durbin's and Schumer's?

    Durbin's been in Africa all week. Does he even (none / 0) (#6)
    by steviez314 on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 11:42:03 AM EST
    know about the Bennett Letter?

    Apparently (none / 0) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 12:25:52 PM EST
    Senator Durbin has, in the past, (none / 0) (#9)
    by KeysDan on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 12:04:32 PM EST
    spoken in favor of a public option (Floor Speech, July 2009) but my cynicism taints the then and the now as well, since in that speech, Durbin parroted the Obama talking point of that time-- that a public option was needed to keep the private insurers honest (apparently, believing that dishonesty was a part of, not apart from, private insurers).  Durbin also included the WH talking point-- Dr. Atul Gawande's less care is just as good, citing Gawande's McAllen, TX v Rochester, MN comparisons in Medicare expenditures, seemingly not recognizing the difference in geographic demographics.( Gawande, by the way, objects to being swept into the questioned Dartmouth Atlas findings and defends his study. NYT Letters to the Editor).  Schumer and Durbin are both progressive, although I do believe Durbin was the one on the right side of the Michael Mukasey confirmation.

    If Schumer and Durbin are "Progressives" (5.00 / 5) (#13)
    by esmense on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 12:30:37 PM EST
    the word has lost all meaning. But, I don't think either would agree with you -- they are "Centrist" and identify themselves as such.

    Schumer worked with Emmanuel to win Democratic seats in Red States in 2006 -- and neither believed or now believes that supporting progressive policies is the way to win in those states or with the American Middle Class in general. (Schumer wrote a book about what he thinks Democrats need to do to win -- pretty much small bore, symbolic economic and social measures -- tax credits for this and that -- law and order, strong defense stuff.)

    If he is supporting the Public Option it may be because he has come to believe it is popular with, and necessary for gaining the support of, those middle class voters he thinks are most important. Or, it may be a short term strategic maneuver.

    Personally, I think the Dems are just going in circles at this point.

    And the American public just wants to get off the merry-go-round.


    Of course, we would need to define (none / 0) (#14)
    by KeysDan on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 01:01:31 PM EST
    "centrist", but I believe Senator Durbin to be much further to the left.  He gets high marks from most progressive groups (for example, Sierra Club, 90%, NAACP 100%, Americans for the Separation of Church and State 100%, AFL/CIO 100%, AARP/Social Security 100%).  He voted against the Iraq resolution in 2002--one of only 23 senators; prochoice, voting for Medicaid funding for abortion (a changed stance from his earliest years) and an advocate for human rights. He voted against FISA.  On the other hand, Durbin gets a zero from the Christian Coalition and National Rifle Association.  He spoke out, with a wrong choice of words, but spoke out he did against torture and enhanced interrogation.  He voted against a ban on burning the flag, And recently, he made news, which must not have set entirely well with the WH nor with some of his colleagues, when he said that the banks own the place.  But, you may be right that the leadership now in vogue demands centrist, which is good, and left--not so much.

    At this point in our history supporting (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by esmense on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 03:01:10 PM EST
    civil rights, separation of church and state, and free speech simply isn't enough to suggest you are progressive. These are mainstream positions supported not only by those who consider themselves "moderates" but also by people who may be far to the Right on other matters, most especially economic issues. Frankly the same can be said for support for abortion rights and the approval of the Sierra Club. Environmental concerns arise from many motives, not all of them in any way progressive. In fact, environmental issues and environmental organizations have traditionally enjoyed their major support from this nation's wealthy elite. Along with support for the arts, it's a favorite cause of those with inherited wealth.

    The issues raised by the health care debate are economic -- and, most important, are experienced differently based on class. In the matter of health care, you can't judge whether someone is progressive based on their rating from the ACLU or the Sierra Club.

    Plenty of Democrats have been paying lip service to, and taking money from, the unions over the last several decades without actually being committed to or fighting for their interests, or for the best economic interest of the working class in general. The proof of that is in the ever shrinking percentage of union workers in the private industry workforce, the stagnation and decline in wages, lost jobs, high unemployment, a dwindling industrial base, etc., etc.

    Neither Durbin or Schumer, in actual practice, have shown themselves to be strong, progressive opponents to these trends.


    For last couple weeks, opposing free speech (none / 0) (#26)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 10:00:12 PM EST
    has been the consensus among self-described progressives.

    "progressive" (none / 0) (#16)
    by christinep on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 01:49:43 PM EST
    Phrases suggesting that "if x belongs, then it means nothing" etc. are interesting, but.... Consider that the word "progressive" has taken on all kinds of meanings in the years since Teddy Roosevelt.  (As for myself, I've always been kind of partial to the good ole' "liberal." But, thats just me.)

    Liberal (none / 0) (#19)
    by cal1942 on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 02:21:56 PM EST
    replaced progressive in the 30s.

    My take on the terminology today is that the word liberal was demonized by right-wingers and progressive was/is used as a substitute.

    The progressive movement at the turn of the last century was an upper middle class movement and there were differences with the new liberals of the 30s.


    Has a "terminology change"... (none / 0) (#22)
    by EL seattle on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 03:22:37 PM EST
    ...ever been attempted for the word "socialist"?

    The word liberal has definitely been demonized by right-wingers, but not nearly as much as the word socialist.  I wonder if similar re-branding efforts have ever been tried for that word.


    Schumer has been one of the chief architects (none / 0) (#23)
    by Rojas on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 03:50:00 PM EST
    of the house of cards that became our financial regulatory system. I suppose one could interject that the progressive melt down of Wall Street institutions due to structural changes he sponsored or supported did in fact have a progressive outcome as the impact spread across the globe.

    Durbin is a wimp (none / 0) (#20)
    by klassicheart on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 02:26:43 PM EST
    I met him once at U of C law school.  A real wimp with no answers of any substance.  He was being interviewed by someone (a newspaper) who asked no real questions....it was a set up.  I asked him about Ben
    Nelson's failure to be much of a Democratic vote, especially re the Supreme Court nominations, and what was his strategy to block Alito.  His answer was a non answer.  The usual tripe.  From that moment on, I knew Durbin was useless. And certainly not a real progressive.  More like a follower hack. The fact that he is in leadership is a bad sign.  Or maybe his purpose is to make Democrats lose.  

    Hmm (none / 0) (#27)
    by snowman on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 11:01:57 PM EST
    Funny, I also saw him at U of C's law school, though it was a year or two before the Alito nomination, and I was quite impressed. He's become more disappointing since joining the leadership though.

    Durbin HAS broken with the White House (none / 0) (#25)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 09:58:11 PM EST
    in co-sponsoring Feingold's Justice Act, the measure which attempted top reform PATRIOT