Liberals Press Reid on Public Option

Posted November 16, 2009 at 7:17pm

A clutch of Senate liberals pressed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to stand firm behind a public insurance option Monday afternoon in the face of filibuster threats from Republicans and Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.).Several liberals have been agitating for Reid to warn potentially wayward moderate Democrats and Lieberman that he will resort to using filibuster-busting budget reconciliation rules to slam through a bill with a public option if they filibuster, but Senators leaving the meeting declined to say whether reconciliation was discussed.“You can talk to the leader about that,— said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of Reid’s lieutenants.Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also declined to say whether they specifically pressed Reid about using reconciliation during their meeting Monday evening but said it seemed inconceiveable to him that the Democratic Senate would not pass a public option that has strong support generally from the American people and 80 percent support from Democrats.“It’s just hard for me to imagine how you go forward in terms of good public policy and cost containment and, politically, without giving the vast majority of the American people what they want,— Sanders said.Schumer said the meeting was “very simple. There are a large number of members who feel strongly about a public option and how … we can achieve it. There’s also among everyone in that room and everyone in the caucus a desire we have to get a bill, so the question is how do you reconcile both goals.—Pressed by reporters on why liberals needed to meet with Reid on the public option when it is already in the bill, Schumer said, “Because we’re thinking of the future.—Going the reconciliation route raises a variety of issues, as Senators and their aides are quick to point out, including forcing committees to rewrite and vote on the bills again, likely kicking a bill into early next year. But reconciliation requires just 51 votes to pass such a bill and limits debate to 20 hours on the floor, making it the only way to get a public option if Lieberman and all 40 Republicans stand firm on their threat to filibuster a bill with one included.