Reid promises public option vote 'in the coming months'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised two Democratic senators this week a Senate vote on the public option "in the coming months."

In a letter to Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the top Senate Democrat said he was committed to pursuing the controversial public insurance option later this year.

"Like you, I remain committed to pursuing the public option," Reid wrote in a letter dated Thursday, which was obtained and published by the Huffington Post. "As we have discussed, I will work to ensure that we are able to vote on the public option in the coming months."

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Reid and Senate Democratic leaders ditched the public option in their own bill last fall after it became apparent that not all 60 Democrats would sign onto a healthcare bill with such a provision. The House-passed bill contained a public option, and some more liberal House Democrats had balked at passing the public option-less version of the Senate bill that is up for a vote this weekend.

The majority leader defended the current healthcare bill, which could reach the upper chamber next week, in his letter to Sanders and Merkley. But he still stressed that he would have preferred to see a public option pass.

"While I believe that the legislation we are considering does much to provide affordable coverage to millions of Americans and curb insurance company abuses, I also believe that the public option would provide additional competition to make insurance even more affordable," he wrote.

The public option vote would likely prove symbolic at the end of the day, since even with all Senate Democrats on board, the government-run plan would fall a vote short of being able to end a GOP filibuster of such legislation.

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