Two different amendments that would have added the public option to the Senate Finance Committee’s heathcare reform bill were defeated today. Five Democrats joined the Republicans in voting against the Rockefeller amendment, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, and Max Baucus. These five are Democrats in name only.
The Rockefeller amendment would have created a strong public option that would have been required to be financially self sustaining. It would have been subject to the same regulations as private plans, and would have included subsidies for lower income people to help offset the costs of premiums. All of this was completely unacceptable to the Democratic Gang of Five, who joined with Republicans on the committee to vote down the amendment, 15-8.
Schumer’s amendment also contained a public option, but would have allowed providers to negotiate reimbursement rates. Schumer’s public option was a tiered plan that allowed for basic, enhanced, premium, and premium plus plan. This was more acceptable to Nelson and Carper, but Lincoln, Conrad, and Baucus voted against it, as the amendment lost, 13-10.
It would appear that all of the advertising by progressive groups, including the ad below, designed to sway Baucus failed.
Why would these Democrats betray their own party? The answer can partially be found by following the money. The two largest industries in terms of contributions to Finance Committee are the Health, and Insurance industries. According to Open Secrets, the healthcare industry gave $7 million in PAC contributions to committee members. Not to be outdone, the finance, insurance, and real estate industries also gave $7 million to the committee.
Committee chairman Max Baucus has taken $1.1 million each from the health and insurance industries. The two largest contributors to Tom Carper of Delaware for 2010 have been the health and insurance sectors. The same holds true for Kent Conrad. The top donor for 2010 to Blanche Lincoln was the healthcare industry. The insurance industry has given $1.5 million to Bill Nelson for the 2010 cycle.
It is easy to understand why the Finance Committee bill was so watered down. The key industries that would be impacted by reform are in essence buying enough Democratic votes to kill the provisions that they don’t want to see in the bill. Even though today’s votes were a foregone conclusion, they once again point out the fact that if Democrats are serious about passing healthcare reform, that are going to have to do through reconciliation.