Sen. Burris hints at shift from public option threats


Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who just days ago repeated his vow to filibuster a healthcare reform bill that did not include a government-run public option insurance program, appeared to create some wiggle room for himself on Monday.

"I am committed to voting for a bill that achieves the goals of a public option," Burris said on the Senate floor shortly after a Democratic caucus meeting at which senators more or less decided to drop the public option and other liberal priorities from the bill in order to win votes from centrists.

At first blush, Burris's statement appears to be another defense of the public option. But compared to what he has said in the past, it represents a semantic shift that could allow him to vote for the bill without a public option. As President Barack Obama has often said, there is more than one way to "achieve the goals of a public option" without actually having a public option.

"If we have to get 60 and it comes back and it does not have a public option in it, I will not vote for it. It will still take 60 votes to pass it," Burris said at a rally last Tuesday, as reported by The Huffington Post. "Understand that I have drawn a line in the sand."

To be sure, Burris expressed some "deep reservations" with the bill's further shift toward the center and certainly did not promise to support the legislation.

"I know how difficult it has been to get this far. My colleagues may have forged a compromise bill that can achieve the 60 votes that will be needed for its passage but until this bill addresses cost, competition and accountability in a meaningful way, it will not win my vote," Burris said.