Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said she’d deliver the deciding vote to push forward with a sweeping health reform plan in the Senate Saturday, ending days of speculation over whether President Barack Obama’s signature priority would proceed to the floor or suffer a debilitating blow.Needless to say, it would have been very, very bad news for the Democrats if the motion to proceed to debate on their health care plan had failed tonight. But I'm not sure how newsworthy this really is. The potential hold-outs, like Lincoln and Ben Nelson, are going to have much greater leverage later on, when the bill nears its second major procedural hurdle: the cloture motion to proceed to the final vote.
As with several centrists before her, Lincoln’s yes vote to start debate came wrapped in series of serious concerns about the current bill – and she said it would require major revisions before she could cast a similar vote in favor of final passage.
"I'm prepared to vote against moving to the next stage of consideration as long as a public option is included," Lincoln said, adding that she specifically would vote against the version of the public option in the current Senate plan.
And there's some bad news for Democrats too: Lincoln has joined Senators Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman in making a fairly explicit threat to filibuster a bill that contains a public option. Mary Landrieu, on the other hand, sounds a little bit more open to compromise. But this impromptu Gang of 3 -- Lincoln, Nelson, Lieberman -- could be a tough one for progressives to penetrate.