Public Option Dream Fading Fast

The dream of a government-run insurance plan for everyone has died a death of a thousand cuts

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December 10, 2009 -- It seemed like the only thing Democrats talked about for a year, the big idea that would transform health care in America — a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers.

But a mere six days of negotiations, hastened by political realities and a ticking clock, changed all that.

Supporters of the idea woke up Wednesday to a disappointing new truth, given all they had invested in the proposal:

Senate Democrats traded away the public option for 60 votes.

The idea of an immediate plan to offer government insurance for all effectively died in the Senate this week of a thousand cuts: a filibuster threat from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a bright line drawn by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) over abortion, a recognition that short-circuiting a filibuster was unworkable and a batch of bad unemployment figures that made Democrats anxious to move off health care by the State of the Union.

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