Reid decides to gamble on the public option

Late this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the healthcare reform bill that he plans to bring before the Senate for a vote would include a public option. It’s a risky proposition, as he doesn’t appear to have the votes necessary at the moment, but I’m encouraged to see someone in the Democratic leadership showing evidence of a rudimentary backbone. The following clip comes from the New York Times:

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, sided with his party’s liberals on Monday and announced that he would include a government-run insurance plan in health care legislation that he plans to take to the Senate floor within a few weeks.

His proposal came with an escape hatch: A state could refuse to participate in the public insurance plan by adopting a law to opt out. Even so, the announcement was a turning point in the debate over how much of a role government should play in an overhauled health care system, and it set the stage for a test of Democratic party unity.

With Republicans united for now in opposition to any bill including a public option, Mr. Reid needs support from all members of his caucus — 58 Democrats and two independents — to take up the legislation. Aides said Monday that he appeared to be short of that goal, lacking firm commitments from several members of the caucus.

Should Mr. Reid prevail, both houses of Congress would be poised to act on bills including a government-run plan to compete with private insurers in selling health coverage to consumers. The House is still weighing the details of its approach, but Democratic leaders have made clear they will include a government plan in their version of the bill…

And in pursuing a public option, it looks as though Reid lost the support of the only Republican who seems to be committed to the idea of healthcare reform, Olympia Snowe… Here’s another clip from the Times:

“I am deeply disappointed with the majority leader’s decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation,” Ms. Snowe said. “I still believe that a fallback, safety-net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate.”

And, for the opposing view on triggers, here’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

We’re closer than ever to winning a historic victory on health care.

I should know: I served as Secretary of Labor under President Clinton during the last health care fight. And I’m sure that this time around we’re within reach of passing a real health care reform bill—one that includes a public health insurance option.

Unfortunately, some conservatives in the Senate are still pushing a “trigger” plan that would kill the public option through indefinite delay. And they may even be finding support within the White House…

And, for those of you who can’t read, or just refuse to, here he is by way of Youtube:

So, you know what you need to do. You need to call Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, or whoever your Democratic Senators happen to be, and tell them to push back against triggers, and support Reid’s legislation when it comes up for a vote. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to also remind them that this is a defining moment in the history of our country, and that historians aren’t likely to look too fondly on the Democrat who, when push came to shove, sided with the Republicans and the insurance lobby.

Debbie Stabenow
Phone: 202-224-4822
Carl Levin
Phone: 202-224-6221

[More on the state opt out, and why Reid included it, can be found here.]

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  1. Posted October 26, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    And, if you’re tempted not to call your Senators, just think about this.

    The other side is well-funded and organized, and they’re making damned sure that your Senators hear from them.

  2. Kelvin
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    It’s about time that someone took a risk and showed the ounce of ball.

  3. Kelvin
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Too bad it was Reid, though, and not our President.

    Now’s the hard part – beating down the blue dogs and twisting a few arms. Hopefully Reid can get the job done.

  4. MoveOn
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Big news: Yesterday, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he’s including a compromise version of the public option in the Senate health care bill —but a few conservative Democrats are still threatening to join a Republican filibuster and block reform.1

    We’re ready to fight back and hold them accountable. Over the weekend, 93% of MoveOn members voted to withhold support from any Democrat who helps block an up-or-down vote on a health care bill with a public option.

    So it’s time to swing into action and turn up the heat on these Democratic holdouts—and to get started, we need to raise $120,000 today. That means we need 3 donations from people in Ypsilanti. Can you donate $20 so we can hold Democrats accountable if they block an up-or-down vote?

    Our member vote can provide a clear incentive to senators who are deciding where they stand on Senator Reid’s bill. So MoveOn members are hitting the streets, and the phones, to get the word out. We’ve planned in-person events at the state offices of conservative Democrats starting today, we’re developing a new round of ads, and we’ll be flooding their offices with phone calls all week.

    At the same time, we need to be clear: the “opt-out” version of the public option has real problems. The most conservative states in the country would likely opt out, potentially leaving millions of uninsured folks without access to the affordable health care a public option would provide.

    So while this compromise version of the public option could help get a bill through the Senate, we need to push hard through the rest of the legislative process to make sure the final bill has a robust public option that doesn’t leave anyone out. Our progressive champions in the House are fighting hard for that and we’ll support their efforts.

    Thanks to the tireless efforts of MoveOn members and the broader progressive movement, the public option now has a ton of momentum. And we’re really close to having the votes we need in the Senate. But we need to make sure a few conservative Democrats don’t doom health care reform.

    Can you donate $20 so we can pressure Democrats to support an up-or-down vote?

    Thanks for all you do.

    –Justin, Ilyse, Kat, Laura, and the rest of the team


    1. “Reid: Public Option No ‘Silver Bullet’ But Strong Consensus For Opt-Out” Talking Points Memo, October 26, 2009

    2. “Nelson: Give states ‘opt in’ public health plan,” The Washington Times, October 25, 2009

  5. What's In a Name
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I called both Senators and voiced my support. A quick and easy call. I encourage everyone to do it.

  6. Oliva
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    And PLEASE call Joe Lieberman ([202] 224-4041) and tell him please do NOT join the Republican filibuster if the public option remains in the bill, as he’s now threatening. This could be his moment to do a good and noble thing and not spit in the faces of all who have worked so hard to get a public option in the legislation and the amazing feat of getting Harry Reid to include it in the Senate bill, even if a weaker version than many of us hope for.

  7. Stephen
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    No answer at Stabenow’s office.

  8. Stephen
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Levin’s people say he’s on board for the public option, but don’t let that stop you from calling.

  9. Sup
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Not sure where they stand now, but 5 Dems voted down the public option in the Senate Finance Committee. They were:

    Max Baucus (Montanna), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Kent Conrad (North Dakota), Bill Nelson (Florida) and Tom Carper (Delaware)

    If you know sane people living in any of those states, please ask them to call their Senators.

  10. Oliva
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Can call Stabenow’s Southeast Michigan office in Detroit:
    Phone: (313) 961-4330

    Levin’s aide said that, while the senator supports the public option, he hasn’t yet given a statement about where he stands on Reid’s version. So call, please!

  11. Posted October 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Update from Stabenow’s office:

    Dear Friend,

    I am writing today to give you an update on the status of the health insurance reform bill.

    In the Senate, two committees have jurisdiction over health insurance reform: the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Finance Committee. Both committees passed health care bills, each focused on their own jurisdiction. Then, Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, combined those bills into one merged bill.

    From the beginning of this debate, I have been a leading advocate of a strong public health insurance option. Individuals and small businesses who are uninsured will be able to purchase their insurance through a new exchange system. A public option means they could choose either a private health insurance plan or a public health insurance plan that is administered by the federal government, which also administers Medicare. This is an extremely important part of health insurance reform, because it will introduce much-needed competition into the insurance markets, keeping insurance companies honest. I am very pleased that Senator Reid announced that the merged bill will include this public option.

    Yesterday, he sent that bill to the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which will carefully analyze the bill to determine the costs and savings. We are committed to passing a bill that does not increase the deficit – this process, called “scoring,” will help ensure that the proposed legislation keeps the budget balanced.

    If for some reason that “score” comes back and it looks like the bill would increase the deficit, Senator Reid will go back and make changes to keep the costs in line.

    We expect that the final bill will be released in the early part of November. When that happens, I will post it on my website right away. You can see copies of the bills already passed by the committees, as well as reports and cost estimates, by visiting my Health Care Online Resource Center at

    As this process unfolds, I am committed to sending President Obama a health care bill that:

    – Stops the bad practices of insurance companies;

    – Strengthens and protects Medicare;

    – and makes health care affordable for families and small businesses.

    Thank you again for your interest and advocacy on this issue. I will continue to keep you updated as we continue to fight for meaningful health insurance reform.


    Debbie Stabenow
    United States Senator

  12. Scott K
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I called both in support of the Blue Dogs and triggers.

  13. Meta
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    House Democrats just unveiled their health-care reform legislation. The bill includes, “a government insurance option and a historic expansion of Medicaid, although sticking points in the legislation involving abortion and immigration remain unresolved.”


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