by Max Brantley
It has come to this. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor forthrightly says he'll vote for a routine procedural motion to allow debate on health care legislation. U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln can't even decide that.
The senator said he would vote to advance the measure to debate, but he emphasized that the vote would not be tantamount to supporting the initial version of the bill.
“Not the same,” Pryor replied when asked if voting to open debate was the same as supporting a public option. “We’re in a process … this bill could change quite a bit as it goes on the floor.”
BY THE WAY: An op-ed in New York Times today by Nate Silver and others compares senators' positions with where their states' voters stand on the notion of increasing government spending on health care to cover the uninsured. Arkansas voters, surveys show, favor more spending on health, but Lincoln and Pryor are, at best, on the fence on the health legislation. They share a characteristic with most who stand in the way of health reform -- residency in a state carried by John McCain over Barack Obama.
For instance, Senator Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat who has been a less-than-strong supporter of the present health care bill, recently told The Times, “I am responsible to the people of Arkansas, and that is where I will take my direction.” But where does she look for her cue? Hers is a poor state whose voters support health care subsidies six percentage points more than the national average. On the other hand, Mr. Obama got just 40 percent of the vote there.
Likewise, in Louisiana, where the Annenberg surveys showed health care reform to be popular but where Mr. Obama is not, the Democrats are not assured of Mary Landrieu’s vote.