Reid Warm to Bringing Back Public Option

Posted February 19, 2010 at 4:52pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signaled late Friday his intention to reintroduce the public insurance option as a part of comprehensive health care reform should Democrats use reconciliation rules to pass a final bill.

Liberals supportive of both the public option and the 51-vote strategy to sidestep a Republican filibuster hailed the pronouncement, which was delivered to a progressive blogger via a statement from top Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau.

Yet with reconciliations comes challenges.

According to one knowledgeable Democratic aide, the three major obstacles include rounding up the votes, getting the White House to actively whip such a bill and drafting legislation that can overcome what are being described as severe procedural roadblocks. Additionally, Reid wants any reconciliation bill he brings to the floor to pass the House first. “It’s unclear that we can overcome the procedural obstacles,” this Democrat said. “It’s harder than people are saying.”

Meanwhile, liberal activists are treating Mollineau’s comments, posted Friday afternoon on Greg Sargent’s Plum Line blog, as proof that the public option and reconciliation are a done deal. Mollineau’s comments come after a week in which 18 Democratic Senators, including Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), signed on to a letter to Reid urging him to embrace the public option and pursue reconciliation

“Senator Reid has always and continues to support the public option as a way to drive down costs and create competition. That is why he included the measure in his original health care proposal,” Mollineau said in a statement published by Sargent. “If a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care, Senator Reid will work with the White House, the House, and members of his caucus in an effort to craft a public option that can overcome procedural obstacles and secure enough votes.”

The remarks come less than a week before President Barack Obama’s nationally televised, bipartisan health care summit. The president has invited Democrats and Republicans to the Blair House in an effort to end the health care stalemate.

But Republicans, questioning the president’s motives and the summit’s outcome, contend that reconciliation is where the Democrats are headed. On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office put out a statement listing the Democrats’ previous comments against reconciliation.

House and Senate Democrats were on the cusp of reconciling health care bills passed late last year when Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) won his state’s January special election and gave the GOP the extra seat it needed to filibuster a merged bill.