Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that the Senate version of health care reform would include a public option with an opt-out, which would allow states to sidestep participation in the government insurance program. The White House reportedly favored a trigger instead, which is probably just a sneaky way to kill the measure altogether.
But CNN quotes a White House official who said the president would support Reid’s more ambitious effort.
It’s not that President Obama doesn’t want a public option—he has repeated his support over and over—but that his strategists think it will sink his entire health reform agenda.
On the other hand, that agenda is shaping up to be a huge gift to insurance companies (by requiring millions of new customers to sign up), without much in the way of tangible reform.
A public option, which has only grown in popularity during the last month, would help soothe progressives who are disappointed in the White House and repulsed by Sen. Max Baucus’ more conservative reform bill.
The Huffington Post reports that some conservative senators who previously decried the public option have hinted that they wouldn’t work with Republicans to block a vote. —PZS
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a public option opponent, has said that while she disagrees with the policy in question, she isn’t inclined to join Republicans in sinking the entire reform effort over it.
“I’m not right now inclined to support any filibuster,” she told HuffPost last week. The refusal of the GOP to participate meaningfully in negotiations has soured her on joining them in a filibuster. “For the Republican Party to kind of step out of the game is very unfortunate,” she said. “I’m not going to be joining people that don’t want progress.”
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), another public option foe, wouldn’t commit when asked last week. “I believe in playing chess, but that’s about three moves ahead of me, and I’m not prepared to make those moves until I see some other moves in between,” he told HuffPost.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), a conservative Democrat, sounded as if he could embrace Reid’s strategy after meeting with the leader last week. “I’m open to a public option,” he said.