Senate Dem floats public option to pro-reform group

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), speaking to a pro-healthcare-reform group Thursday morning, floated the idea of creating a public option in the future.

“I think of the current healthcare bill as a starter home,” Harkin said to the annual conference of Families USA after saying the exclusion of the public option was a necessary compromise to pass the reform law. During debate on the measure, the government-run insurance option was removed from the bill in order to clear it through both chambers.

Touting the consumer protections included in the healthcare bill, Harkin said Democrats should go on the offensive against Republican plans to repeal and replace the reform law.

“People have these benefits,” Harkin said. “It’s not a promise, it’s in the law and now [Republicans] want to take them away.”

Harkin told the pro-reform advocates he is bracing for a fight to keep the reform law intact as Senate Republicans push for a vote on repeal.

"I'm determined to do everything in my power as both the chairman and an individual senator to protect this important law against any attempt to weaken or repeal it," he said.