Why isn't the Democratic leadership pushing for the public option? Ezra says: "The problem is that it's not popular policy with the handful of conservative House and Senate votes that you need to push this bill over the finish line." The leadership isn't to be blamed for this, though the conservative Democrats are. Ezra again: "I don't think conservative Democrats will pick up even a single vote if the final plan doesn't include a public option"
As both Ezra and Matt say, I'm sure that there will be some resentment among the base about Democrats not pushing for the public option when they could've got it through reconciliation. But I don't think it'll have that big an effect. There probably are some very small number of votes to be gotten by super-exciting the base with the public option. But at this point you get most of the votes just for passing a comprehensive bill.
We've just gone through a one-month period where it looked to many people like health care reform was dead. Of course Pelosi worshippers like me kept the faith, but even we're a bit shaken. Except for crazy Kill Biller types who are a minority, we're just hoping that some comprehensive bill passes. Pass a bill and we'll vote.
Moreover, many of us had already mourned the public option before that and despaired of ever getting it passed when Joe Lieberman made the self-destructive decision to name its removal as the price for his supporting the Senate bill. After you've despaired of something, it doesn't seem like you have it and are entitled to it anymore. It becomes a bonus. That's where I think the public option is now in the minds of many Democrats. I don't think they'll be infuriated by the refusal to pass it now, in any way that matters. Democrats will be happy enough to go out and vote if they get some kind of comprehensive bill. I'm thinking the public option would get a couple extra votes here and there, but I don't think this is anything huge.
Of course, if House and Senate centrists had all been reasonable folk, we'd have the public option. But what else is new? Now I think we're just going to content ourselves to passing it sometime in the years to come.
Addendum: So what do we make of Obama here? Well, if he left out the public option because he's got good evidence that it'll keep the bill from getting 218 in the House, he did the right thing. If that's not how it is, he did the wrong thing. If Hoyer's right, he did the wrong thing.