On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee voted down two versions of a "public option" for government insurance as part of its health care reform legislation. The Finance Committee is just one of several committees handling health care legislation (the others have approved a public option), but because it is the most conservative it is thought to hold special importance. Despite Democrats' 13-10 majority on the Finance Committee, the failed votes came as no surprise, since several conservative Democrats, including the chairman Max Baucus, oppose a public option. Several prominent liberals were nevertheless angry that their own party brought about the defeat. With lightning-rod liberals like Michael Moore and Howard Dean getting increasingly vocal in their criticism of moderate Democrats, the threat of a circular firing squad is growing.

  • Moderates Dems Imperil Party's Majority  Howard Dean told Rachel Maddow that Democrats who voted against the public option have imperiled the whole party. "Look, here's the problem with these guys, they're stuck. In the more conservative states, there's a lot of venom against it, even though the majority of people want it. And a lot of these guys have taken millions of  dollars from the health insurance industry and they're stuck. And that's a real problem," he said. "If we don't pass this thing, we're going to lose a lot of  seats. And if we don't pass -- everybody in America now knows that without a public option, this thing is a farce."
  • 'We Will Work Against You'  Michael Moore threatened recalcitrant Democrats that they would become targets of the left. "To the Democrats in Congress who don’t quite get it: I want to offer a personal pledge. I – and a lot of other people – have every intention of removing you from Congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want," he said. "That is not a hollow or idle threat. We will come to your district and we will work against you, first in the primary and, if we have to, in the general election."
  • Bipartisan-Minded Dems are Unwitting Tools of GOP  Ezra Klein knocked moderate Dems who, he says, are inadvertently helping Republicans kill reform by fetishizing the idea of bipartisanship. "Baucus and Conrad did the work for them, all the while protesting that they didn't oppose the public option," he wrote. "Now the moderate bloc will need to extract something else in an eleventh-hour bargain to show that they applied their centrist convictions to the legislation. Baucus makes it sound as though he's attempting to ensure a deal. But in reality, he's just depriving the centrists of the ability to make their deal. That means they'll have to make a different one, and the bill will get worse twice rather than once."
  • The Ruse of Bipartisanship  Digby slammed moderate Dems who, unlike Jay Rockefeller, voted against a public option designed to help their middle-class constituents. "Considering the bipartisan whorishness of our current political system, it's almost a guarantee that there there won't be the kind of regulation needed to give security to average people," she wrote. "I think Blanche Lincoln, Kent Conrad and Max Baucus all have plenty of constituents who make 30k a year just like Rockefeller. But they'd rather see them suffer than risk being called a socialist by some confused teabagger or lose a big campaign check from Blue Cross. It's a choice. And what they choose tells you a whole lot about the character of those making it."