Leading proponents of the public option are placing the responsibility for passing a public option solely on the shoulders of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

As Majority Leader, Reid has the responsibility to combine the bills passed by the Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The HELP bill includes a public option, while the Finance Committee's version does not.

"Harry Reid can put into that mark whatever he wants," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), told Bloomberg news in an interview set to air this weekend.


Rockefeller and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are two of the Senate's leading proponents of the public option. Both tried unsuccessfully to add a version of the public option to the Finance Committee bill.

Earlier this week, Schumer echoed Rockefeller's comments about Reid's responsibility, reminding the Majority Leader that once he molds a final bill, it would take 60 votes to strip it of a public option.

"Well, first leader Reid has the option of putting [the public option] in the final bill. If he puts it in the final bill, in the combined bill, then you would need 60 votes to remove it," Schumer told MSNBC this week. "There are clearly not 60 votes against the public option. And so we’re urging him to do that, and he is seriously considering it."

Finding the right balance is no easy task for Reid. Over 50 House liberals have pledged to vote against any final bill that does not include a public option, setting up a potential showdown between the two chambers.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the HELP Committee, expressed frustration today with the handful of centrists Democrats who are holding out.

"The vast majority of the Democratic caucus is for the public option that is in the HELP bill," he said. "Should the 52 [in favor] give in to the five, or should the five come along with the majority?"

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), whose voted Democrats may need to break a filibuster, has said she would not support any bill that includes a public option. She is, however, open to a "trigger" that would implement a public option if insurance companies fail to adequately respond to reform.