This is exactly the tack I expected. The public option was negotiable until the exact moment that Finance completed its mark-up. Then it was not negotiable. That was the strategy, my friends.
Now, this isn't the end of the story, by any means. There is difference between a public option and a robust public option. A robust public option will have its reimbursement rates tied to Medicare's reimbursement rates. That's what we want. That's what the Progressive Caucus in the House is insisting be in the bill. A worrying sign is that as Reid tacks to the left, Pelosi may be tacking to the right. The middle may be reached by settling on a non-robust public option.
We shall see. But, based on Reid's abrupt turnabout, I feel confident that I had gamed out this strategy correctly. The Senate looks like it will have some form of public option in the base bill, even after signaling for months that that was something they were willing to trade away.
I'd love to see a robust public option pass the House and then prevail in the Conference Committee. That is still a rough road, and Pelosi is flirting with compromise at precisely the wrong time. But the plan appears to be going according to plan, just as I envisioned it. If the House Progressives really hold firm, this bill may not pass through the Senate after the Conference Report. If that happens, we could still go to budget reconciliation, but the blame for that would be placed on progressives, making it a politically treacherous path. This thing isn't won, but it is on track.
It's a little over a year until the 2010 midterms. While the demographic trends in midterms favor the Pubs (skewing towards older, pale-skinned voters) and the economic climate is still mixed, a win for the Dems on health care reform should help cushion whatever blow their lead in the House might receive based on the other two factors. And while they've done a fair job minimizing the overt craziness lately, don't underestimate the Pubs' ability to alienate vast swaths of the American electorate.
* - I was going to title this post 'Navigating the USS Public Option', but HMS seemed more appropriate, all things considered.