Major Progressive Groups to Senator Reid: "Public Option Or Else"; Reid Blinks (sort of)

A couple of days ago, progressives made it clear that they would go after Senate Leader Harry Reid of he didn't start acting like a leader and get real heath care reform -- public option included -- passed through the Senate.

I even faxed this article to every democratic Senator.

From TPM's Brian Beutler:

Major progressive organizations see a golden opportunity to resurrect the public option, and are preparing a campaign, which will include television ads in Nevada, to pressure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get on board.

As I've noted a number of times, the public option will not be in the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill, but it can re-emerge at three key points in the legislative process. Among those, one of the most important is the next step, when Reid merges the Finance bill with a more liberal proposal from the Senate HELP Committee. If he adopts the latter panel's public option, it would dramatically alter the nature of the legislative battle, shifting the onus from liberals, who have been doggedly fighting to include the public option in the Senate bill, on to conservative Democrats, who would have to decide whether their opposition to the popular measure is so strong that they'd be willing to join the GOP in a health care filibuster and tank the entire reform effort.

Such a move would likely alienate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the only Republican working with Democrats on health care reform, and require Democratic leaders, including Reid and President Obama to make sure all 60 Democrats stand united when Republicans try to block the bill--a tall order, and one Reid doesn't seem prepared to meet.

"If Harry Reid does not have the leadership skills to get 60 votes for cloture and give a Democratic president an up-or-down vote on health care, progressives will help defeat him in 2010, even if that means Republicans take that seat," said the head of one progressive organization, who's still working out the detail of the campaign. "There is no use for Reid's vote if 60 Democratic votes means nothing on cloture, and no use for Reid's leadership if his leadership is so blatantly ineffective."

That might not be such a troubling threat if Reid, who's up for re-election in 2010, wasn't suffering at the polls.

Well, it didn't take long for Harry Reid to blink. Well, sort of.

On Thursday, it was reported by HuffPo's Sam Stein that Reid had said:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will have wide control over reconciling two versions of health care legislation in the Senate, told local constituents on Thursday that the final bill will include a public option for insurance coverage.

The remarks, first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal are destined to bring a wide smile to the faces of progressives who view the melding of health care legislation by leadership in the Senate -- and the subsequent melding between the Senate and the House versions -- as the best chance of ensuring the public option's passage.


...Reid reportedly told a conference call of Nevadans that: "We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president's desk."

"I believe the public option is so vitally important to create a level playing field and prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of us," Reid added.

That sounded too good to be true, and, evidently it was.

According to a clarification Sam Stein got from Reid's office over what he really meant, seeing as he's never been one to go out on such a limb -- Reid backtracked a bit:

Reid's office clarifies his remarks in a statement sent over from an aide to the Senator.

"Sen. Reid believes that health insurance reform must include a mechanism to keep insurers honest, create competition and keep costs down," the statement reads. "He feels that the public option is the best way to do that. While we don't know exactly what that option will look like, Sen. Reid, working with President Obama, will ensure that whatever is included in the final bill does just that."

read more....

Of course both statements sound very similar, but if you look real close at his parsing of words, the clarification makes it clear that the public option could look like anything they decided to call "a public option."
"While we don't know exactly what that option will look like... "
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