Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Thursday joined the growing cavalcade of Democratic Senators urging Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to embrace the public insurance option and use reconciliation to pass health care reform.
In doing so, Schumer became the highest-profile Senate Democrat and biggest Reid ally to sign on to a letter originally sent to the Majority Leader by Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.). As of Thursday afternoon, 17 Senate Democrats were pushing Reid to use reconciliation rules to sidestep a Republican filibuster of health care reform.
We respectfully ask that you bring for a vote before the full Senate a public health insurance option under budget reconciliation rules, the Senators said in their letter.
Senate Democratic aides have been quietly drafting a reconciliation package, which would allow the majority to pass certain aspects of the overhaul with just 51 votes. But Reid has not made a final decision on whether to move forward with this strategy.
Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suggested in an interview with CNN this week that the public insurance option remains a nonstarter with the administration, given the resistance of moderate Democrats.
Sebelius made her comments in reference to President Barack Obamas upcoming bipartisan health care summit, noting that Democrats have given up the public insurance option, so Republicans should be prepared to compromise as well.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.