There is a bit of news on health care today, which is that, by my count, 116 U.S. Representatives, most of whom are part of the House Progressive Caucus, have signed a letter (PDF) to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asking him to consider including a public option in the so-called "sidecar reconciliation" bill that would resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills:
In a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today, 120 House Democrats say the Senate should seize that opportunity and include a public option.
"This letter states loud and clear that the public option is gaining momentum and is alive and well in the eyes of the American public,” said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who organized the show of support along with Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). "Our job now is to convince Washington what the American people already know—that a public option is essential to challenging the insurance companies and ensuring the choice and competition we need to drive prices down."
120 House Democrats demand public option
The language of the letter is pretty clearly a request, not a demand. There is no "or else" clause, as in "or else, there will be no health care bill, because we're not voting for it." As such, it is something that Reid will, I would guess, ignore. He's in electoral trouble, and is probably looking for an exit strategy at the moment. Open Secrets puts Reid's net worth at between $2.8M and $6.3M, that's probably not enough to live on, especially given that that kind of range indicates he's invested in some volatile holdings. Some of it is bound to be his house or houses. In short, he'll need a job, and the most logical job is the sort that Tom Daschle had, lobbying for the kinds of folks who can pay big money for lobbyists. That means folks like drug companies and insurance companies.
Reid isn't going to take a dump in his lunch bucket to help the little people. While we would be better off without him in the Senate, he's certainly going to try to cash in on his position while he can, and that means he'll be screwing the rest of us.
So, while I appreciate the gesture, without a firm statement that progressive representatives will walk away, it is probably futile.
I look forward to being proved wrong. Go ahead, Congress. Do it.
UPDATE: After having checked Reid's latest financial disclosure (PDF, and you might have to go through this page to get it), I'll amend my estimate. He might conceivably be able to live off what he owns, although I doubt he will. He has some fairly substantial investments in various municipal bonds. The interest from all of those might provide enough money. His real estate holdings, the biggest of which appear to be his Las Vegas home, is somewhere between a third and a half of his portfolio.
Part of the uncertainty in the value of Reid's portfolio is due to the way the forms are designed, rather than to the volatility of the value of those assets. The person filling out the form just checks a box that has the range of values closest to that holding. It stands to reason that Reid's actual worth is somewhere in between the two extremes Open Secrets mentions, but there's no way to tell from this form.
Put it this way, I could live on what Harry Reid owns just fine, but I probably don't live like Reid does, either.