Sen. Durbin: 'Variation' of public option could win 60 Senate votes

The Senate will only be able to muster support for a "variation" of the public option, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday.

The Senate's second-ranking Democrat said that while there are intense feelings about the need for the public (or "government-run") option among Democrats, he is committed to moving forward the process of passing a health bill.

Durbin said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he could get a filibuster-proof 60 votes for a public option "if there's a variation on the theme, perhaps," mentioning nonprofit cooperatives or the "triggered" public option as possible variations.

"There are some that feel intensely about this, but there's also a commitment to get this process moving," he said.

The whip said he is not taking any votes for granted, but praised Maine's two centrist senators, Susan Collins (R) and Olympia Snowe (R) as potential GOP votes for health reform. He dismissed Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) likelihood of voting for the plan, though.

And while final healthcare legislation may include small pilot programs examining ways to reform medical liability insurance for physicians, Durbin dismissed the idea that this bill would include wholesale, national tort reform.

"It will be a separate bill," Durbin said of any national tort reform plan.