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Senate Centrists Discuss Alternatives to Public Option

Senate Democratic centrists, led by Tom Carper of Delaware, met Thursday evening to discuss alternatives to the public insurance option proposal in the chamber’s health care reform package.Democratic moderates, uneasy with Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) choice of a public insurance option even though it includes an opt-out provision for states that do not want to participate, are looking for an alternative that can garner the 60 votes needed for passage. The public option offered by Reid is strongly opposed by all 40 Republicans.Carper described Thursday’s meeting as productive.“Among the concerns that centrists have expressed are concerns about an alternative that might be government-run or government-funded, and we had an opportunity to drill down on both of those concerns,— Carper said.Among those who attended all or part of the meeting were Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska); Kay Hagan (N.C.); Mary Landrieu (La.); Blanche Lincoln (Ark.); Ben Nelson (Neb.); Mark Pryor (Ark.); Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.); Arlen Specter (Pa.); and Mark Warner (Va.).Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), who caucuses with the Democrats, also attended. But he made clear afterward that his staunch opposition to inclusion of a public insurance option of any kind into the health care reform bill has not changed. Lieberman has vowed to filibuster the final health care bill if it includes such a measure.

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