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Prospects For a Public Option From the Senate Finance Committee

The vote on public option amendments by the Senate Finance Committee is projected to come next Tuesday. As Jon Walker noted, there are three in the offing:

  • A Rockefeller amendment that most closely resembles the public option in the House bill;
  • A Schumer amendment that would add the same public option included in the HELP Committee bill;
  • A Schumer amendment that would be his "level playing field" public option (the weakest of the three).

According to those who have been talking with Senate staff on the subject, the only one that stands a chance of passing is the third Schumer amendment, and the wavering Democrats are:

  1. Max Baucus — has said he supports a public plan, despite the fact that his bill doesn’t contain one.
  2. Bill Nelson — acknowledges that a public option would address lack of competition in the health care industry, but said he was against it, then he was "open" to it, and most recently says it must be subject to triggers.  Bill Nelson — says emerging public option is "attractive."
  3. Kent Conrad — Has always said that "there aren’t enough votes for a public option," but wouldn’t say if he was one of them. Told Ezra Klein today he would only be open to one that wasn’t tied to Medicare rates — which Schumer’s "level playing field" isn’t.
  4. Blanche Lincolnsaid in July that a public insurance option should be included in any health care bill, but since then has changed her position like some people change their hair color.
  5. Tom Carper — thinks the job of the Senate Finance Committee is to honor back room deals with PhRMA. Won’t say how he feels about a public option.

There are 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans on the committee, which means they can only lose two Democratic votes and still pass the amendment. So, in order for a public plan to come out of Finance, three of these are going to have to get off the fence.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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