WASHINGTON -- Howard Dean said a public health insurance option is more important than bipartisanship, and that Democrats should pass health-care legislation that includes the option with 51 votes if necessary.
"If Republicans want to shill for insurance companies, then we should do it with 51 votes," Dean said during a news conference at the first day of the liberal America's Future Now! conference here.
This seems pretty close to the mainstream Democratic view: a bipartisan agreement is preferable, but they're willing to revert to reconciliation if necessary. (Granted, Dean seems to think the former option is unlikely.)
But the following statement probably won't do anything to increase the chances of compromise package:
Dean added that Democrats should have "no intention" of working with Republicans if it's not the strongest possible legislation that could be passed with a simple majority.
Admitting this seems like bad strategy. Even if it's true that Democrats have every intention of getting the "strongest possible legislation" with or without Republicans, why is Dean saying it publicly? He's basically telling Republicans that they can't influence the process, then threatening to circumvent them if they don't participate in process.