Burr 'willing to entertain' co-op proposal on health bill

One Republican senator, in the midst of a tough reelection battle, indicated Tuesday he might break with his party's leaders and support a healthcare compromise establishing nonprofit cooperatives for Americans.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said that he is "willing to entertain" the co-op compromise, which has been proposed in lieu of a public (or "government-run") option for consumers in order to win centrist Democrats' and Republicans' votes.

"While I haven't seen any specific details about these co-ops, I am willing to entertain any good idea as long as it covers all Americans, stresses wellness and prevention, and does not increase taxes or add to our national debt," Burr said in a statement today.

While he hasn't yet attracted a top-tier candidate, Burr is expected to face a tough reelection bid next fall, with Democrats bolstered by a resurgence in the Tar Heel state in recent cycles.

Burr's statement puts him at odds with the Senate's second-ranking Republican, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who said that he opposed the co-ops and said that few GOP members of the Senate -- if any -- would as well.

Burr said that he'd examine the co-op compromise, but laid out some potential obstacles to his vote.

"If these co-ops are financed or run by the federal government, then they are no better than the public option and are just federally run health care under a different name," he said.

Update, 4:47 p.m.: Democrats point out that Burr might have gone even further than entertaining the co-ops when he told a North Carolina group: "It's ok if you want to have a government option but you've got to leave the private sector private."

"It is no surprise that Richard Burr is all over the map when it comes to finding ways to oppose health care reform," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Communications Director Eric Schultz. "Given that he has received $1.7 million from health and insurance interests, his loyalty to the insurance companies is completely understandable."

But Burr spokesman David Ward clarifies:
Senator Burr is definitely not in support of a government run, public option. This quote is misleading because viewers are not able to put it in the context of the question. Proponents of a public plan say it will improve competition among health insurance companies. Senator Burr was acknowledging the fact that if a public option were put into place then for competition to happen, the government cannot place additional restrictions, requirements, or mandates on private health plans. If the government does not leave the

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