Two crucial questions hang over the Senate. Will it pass Democrat-only health care reforms? And can a public option survive the whims of the so-called budget reconciliation process? If the answer to both questions is yes, then the public option could survive in the stasis-oriented upper chamber. But if the answer to the second question is "no," then the Democrats will a lot of whipping to do.
Go read the article. Here's how I think it goes (today):
The ayes will ultimately include Warner of VA, Tester of MN, Pryor of AR, and Begich of AK for a total of 51. Add Nelson of FL as a likely yes.
The nays will be Landrieu of LA, Lieberman of CT, Bayh of IN, Lincoln of AR, Nelson of NE, and most all of the rest of those assholes, including Baucus and Conrad.
Even with 99 senators the headcount necessary to suspend debate, i.e. end a Republican filibuster, remains 60. Only if the number of Senators "duly chosen and sworn" becomes 98 would the three-fifths majority needed be reduced to 59.
So the real question is whether some of the nays will vote for cloture. This is why the eventual Massachusetts appointee, and how long it takes to get that person 'chosen' and sworn, is important also. And whether there will be public outcry sufficient to force one or two members of the GOP to relent on their blockage of healthcare reform.
In short, the final battle remains in the hands of the people.
Update: Since I prepared most of this post on Wednesday, Chris Bowers of Open Left today has revised his whip count and observes that no Democratic senator has specifically stated opposition to the public option. Since Lieberman isn't a Democrat -- that is not hyperbole; he is both technically and obviously an independent -- he doesn't count. Besides Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, the most confirmed fence-sitters are those Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee: Max Baucus, Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Ron Wyden. Because, as Bowers notes ...
(T)hose Senators are still in a position to pass a bill out of that committee without a public option, while Senators not on the Finance Committee are not. If you are in a position to avoid a vote on the public option ever happening, then simply saying you will not vote against a public option isn't good enough(.)