Schumer, Rockefeller Predict Success for Public Option
Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) confidently predicted that the country will have a public health insurance plan, despite the fact that their own proposals to create one face steep odds in the Finance Committee on Friday.“Tomorrow is the opening day in our big fight, but we’re going to take it all the way down to the wire,— Schumer told reporters in a conference call Thursday evening. “But I will make a prediction: The health care bill that is signed into law by the president will have a good, strong, robust public option.—Schumer acknowledged that he is unsure whether he has the votes to prevail Friday morning in committee when he offers his proposal, calling his amendment an “underdog.— However, he said, “I think we have a strong chance on the Senate floor to get it.—The Finance bill proposed by Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would create a network of nonprofit health insurance cooperatives, in an attempt to create the kind of competition against private insurers that many assume would result from a public plan. Though the Baucus bill is a product of bipartisan talks among six panel members, no Republicans have said they will support it — a scenario that has emboldened Democrats who favor the public option. However, Baucus has repeatedly asserted that any bill with a public plan would fall to filibuster on the Senate floor, unable to garner the necessary 60 votes. And Democratic leaders have been loath to use budget reconciliation rules to sidestep a filibuster, because those procedural rules would drastically limit the scope of any health care reform measure.Rockefeller said the public plan has been unfairly maligned and its chances of passage discounted, largely because the Senate has not fully debated the merits of creating a public health insurance plan.“Co-ops don’t work in this country,— Rockefeller stated. He added that he and Schumer “have a good shot of getting [a public option] out of the Finance Committee,— and he warned reporters not to assume defeat for the amendment at any stage of the debate.“Don’t fall victim to this feeling that it’s not going to happen,— Rockefeller said. The Finance panel has been marking up its health care bill since Tuesday and is expected to continue Friday and into next week.The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed its version, which includes a public insurance option, in July and the two bills will be merged before heading to the Senate floor.