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Senate Liberal Dems Press Reid Not To Cave On Public Option

There’s more tonight about the big meeting between Harry Reid and Senate progressives tonight, as details leak out. Jeffrey Young has a story up at The Hill. He confirms that the public option was the key topic of discussion – and that the progressives requested it:

Though Reid has already announced the bill — which could be unveiled as soon as Tuesday — will insurance a form of government-run public option insurance from which states could opt out, a gang of liberals apparently needed reassurance and requested a sit-down with their leader.

Attendees at the meeting included Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Roland Burris (Ill.), Al Franken (Minn.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). They met in Reid’s Capitol office with the majority leader, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), whose version of the healthcare bill did not include a public option.

Boxer and Franken in particular haven’t been nearly as vocal in public about the need for a public option as the rest of those members, but the rest have been the ones most out in front, including Burris and Sanders, who have at least intimated that they would not advance a bill without a public option.

The New York Times reports that the liberal Dems “urged Mr. Reid not to back down from his decision to put a government-run insurance plan, or public option, in the major health care legislation that he is working to finalize.”

Hm. What have they been hearing?

This comment from Max Baucus, who was at the meeting (why wasn’t Tom Harkin or Chris Dodd, representing the HELP Committee, with just as much claim to the bill?), is ominous as well:

Baucus confirmed the topic of the meeting was the public option but insisted, as he has all year, the Democrats are more committed to enacting healthcare legislation than any single issue. “They wanted to talk about the importance of the public option in the bill,” Baucus said of the liberals, “but the main point is: we must pass health reform this year.”

Sherrod Brown appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show tonight and made no mention of the meeting in particular, though he did claim to be confident that Sen. Reid would not include the Stupak amendment language in the merged Senate bill. He also reiterated what he’s been saying forever, that the final holdouts on the bill (listed in the Times article as Landrieu, Lincoln and Nelson – Lieberman was mysteriously absent) would not “want to be on the wrong side of history” and vote down the kind of decades-in-the-making legislation that people go into public service to pass. He did say this to the Times:

“A large number of people in this country including many, many doctors wanted Medicare for all,” he said. “That didn’t happen. Then we wanted a strong public option tied to Medicare rates. Then we wanted a public option building the Medicare network. That didn’t happen. Now we are saying public option coming out of the HELP Committee. And now we’re saying public option with the state opt-out. Where was the compromise coming from their side?”

We’ll have more on this tomorrow.

Politico suggests that reconciliation may have been discussed, though Chuck Schumer denies it.

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David Dayen

David Dayen