Healthcare reform: Can Democrats give up public option?
As Obama calls on Congress to pass reform, the Democrats are still split on the need for a public health insurance option.
As President Obama prepares to speak at a joint session of Congress, the lines in the sand over a public option in healthcare reform are wearing thin for Democrats.Skip to next paragraph
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there will be no healthcare reform legislation in the House without a public option. Democratic centrists say the Senate cannot pass any bill that has a public option in it.
But there is broad and robust agreement among Democrats on a more critical point: Congress must move on healthcare this fall. Put another way: It’s time for leadership – and not only from the White House.
“We as a caucus know where we are and what we can get,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid after a caucus lunch today.
Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has been leading bipartisan negotiations over healthcare reform with the so-called Gang of Six since last spring, signaled Wednesday that he is about out of patience.
“There is a time and a place to discuss and to reach decisions," he said. "Today, I told leadership, the president, Democrats, ranking member [Charles Grassley] and others that next week we are going to mark up a bill."
But he also signaled that a public option won't be part of that bill. “Senate Democrats know the importance of passing healthcare reform and also know that to get it passed, we need 60 votes,” he said after the caucus meeting today. With the loss of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts, Democrats – including the two Independents who vote with them – are down to 59.
The public option is a non-starter for Republicans, too. But for now, the minority party isn't the issue. Democrats need to rally their own members around a bill and restore momentum to their president’s agenda.
The great divide