Public option supporters could offer a second reconciliation bill to establish the program, a top Democrat said Wednesday.
Supporters of creating a government-run public option health insurance program are considering moving the proposal after healthcare reform is finished via another budget reconciliation bill that would require just a simple majority to pass, said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
The Senate this week is debating a reconciliation bill that would modify the healthcare reform law President Barack Obama signed Tuesday. The bill on the Senate floor was written based on the current budget resolution, which will soon be replaced. Harkin indicated that the new budget could also allow for a reconciliation bill, which he believes could be used to enact the public option.
Harkin supports the public option and said the House and Senate advocates would "begin working on that immediately" but, like other Senate Democrats, rejected amending the current reconciliation bill because such a move would force the House to pass it again. Because of centrist Democratic opposition, the public option may not have enough support to pass the House. "The greater good is getting the bill passed," not waging a fight this week over the public option.
Public option supporters are deeply disappointed that the new law, which was written by the Senate, does not include what for many of them was their top priority for healthcare reform. The House passed a bill last year with a public option, and Harkin's committee's version of the legislation included one, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) cut the provisions from the Senate bill at the insistence of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and other centrists.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), joined by lawmakers such as Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), spearheaded an effort to revive the public option as the House and Senate headed toward the final stage of the healthcare reform push. The PCCC claims 120 supporters in the House and 51 in the Senate but the White House and congressional Democratic leaders determined they lacked the votes in both chambers attach the public option to the reconciliation bill that the House passed along with the Senate healthcare bill and that the Senate is set to complete by the weekend.