Conrad says 'many' Republican senators open to co-ops

Many Republicans are open to supporting a healthcare compromise creating cooperatives for Americans, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Thursday.

Conrad, the chief proponent of the cooperative compromise, said that while he hasn't engaged in any formal vote counting, more Republicans than those in the so-called "group of six" locked in crafting a bipartisan health bill are open to backing a compromise.

"There are many more who are open to the cooperative option as being a way to bridge the gap between those who are passionately in favor of the public option, and those who are passionately opposed," Conrad said during an interview on the Fox Business Network.

The three Republicans in that group are Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, has said that more than those three Republicans would need to support a final healthcare reform bill for it to be considered "bipartisan."

Conrad continued to push the co-op model, which he first floated as a compromise early in the negotiations over a bill, as the only option likely to pass through the Senate.

"The only plan that has bipartisan support in the United States Senate is the cooperative option," he said.

He explained that while he's not sure what the sure what the vote count would be for a co-op bill, the public option is not viable.

"I've not gone out and done a detailed vote count because we're not at that stage," Conrad asserted. "It's very clear that there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option."

As for a timeline, the chairman of the Budget Committee said that while the group of six maintains no timeline to strike a deal, there is still a "good chance" that healthcare reform could pass through Congress this year.

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