Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will seek a public option using a majority-vote procedure if he can get the votes, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Tuesday.
Merkley said that he thinks Reid would agree to proceed with a healthcare package reinserting the public option into the Senate's legislation, if enough senators sign onto the growing effort supporting it.
"He had a public option in his leader's amendment he put forward," Merkley said during an appearance on the liberal radio host Bill Press's podcast.
"I think that if we have the votes for it, he'll support it," Merkley added.
23 Democratic senators have signed onto a letter first offered by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) urging Reid to use the budget reconciliation process, which sidesteps the usual, 60-vote threshold needed to pass most legislation, to put a public option back into the healthcare bill.
The public option had initially been taken out in a concession to win over enough centrist Democrats to pass the Senate's original healthcare plan. But since Republican Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) won a special election giving the GOP enough votes to sustain a filibuster, Democrats have been more open to use the reconciliation process to finish healthcare.
Reid's office told the Huffington Post on Friday that "if a decision is made" to revive the public option, he would fight for it, though it's unclear from where that decision would generate.