Kennedy affirms support for public healthcare plan

Liberals pushing for the creation of a federally run health insurance plan won a major victory Thursday when Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) strongly indicated his commitment to the policy, one of the most controversial elements of healthcare reform.

Kennedy has co-sponsored a resolution introduced by Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownGreen New Deal vote tests Dem unity in Senate Trump mounts Rust Belt defense Warren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses MORE (Ohio) and 26 other Democratic senators that declares the healthcare reform legislation the Senate will consider this summer must include a public plan option people can choose instead of private insurance. Senate Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (D-Ill.) also co-sponsored the resolution.

Though purely symbolic, this show of strength by 28 Democratic senators sends a clear signal to liberals that a public plan, one of the left’s top priorities and a component of President Obama’s healthcare platform, will be part of reform.

Kennedy’s unequivocal support for the public plan marks a return of sorts to the front lines of the battle for healthcare reform.

Kennedy has been absent for much of the year as he undergoes treatments for a brain tumor. Democrats are hopeful he will return next month to oversee his Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s markup of healthcare reform legislation.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusOvernight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor Judge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester MORE (D-Mont.) also indicated Thursday that his panel’s version of the healthcare reform bill also will include some type of public plan.

“I do suspect that a version will be there,” Baucus said. “Now, by saying that, I don’t want to frighten people, particularly on the industry side. … All I’m saying is, there are ways to skin a cat. There are ways to find a solution.”

The same group of Democratic senators, not including Kennedy, penned a letter to Kennedy and Baucus earlier this month stating their support for the public plan. The resolution does not specify what form the public plan must take.

“Resolved, That the Senate recognizes that any efforts to reform our Nation’s health care system should include as an option the establishment of a federally-backed insurance pool to create options for American consumers,” the “Sense of the Senate” resolution reads, in part.

“This is about consumer choice and introducing competition in the health insurance market,” Brown said in a statement. “Private health insurers always manage to stay one step ahead of the sheriff’— finding new ways to limit care and pass costs along to the consumer. Giving Americans the choice of a quality, federally backed, health insurance option will keep private insurers honest and make healthcare affordable.”

The options range from establishing a Medicare-like program to Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE’s (D-N.Y.) bid to set up a plan that must abide by the same regulations as private insurers' to Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) proposal to establish a “fallback” public plan that would kick in if private insurers fail to meet certain benchmarks.

Both committees plan to mark up legislation next month; the Senate is slated to vote on a combined bill in July.

HELP Committee members Kennedy, Brown and Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Barbara Mikulksi (Md.), Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate Wisconsin lawmaker refuses to cut hair until sign-language bill passes MORE (Iowa), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedThis week: Congress set for next stage of Mueller probe fight Overnight Defense: Top Marine warns border deployment could hurt readiness | McSally aims for sexual assault reforms in defense bill | House to vote on measure opposing transgender ban | New warning over F-35 sale to Turkey Marine Corps commander: Using troops at southern border an 'unacceptable risk' to readiness MORE (R.I.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGreen New Deal vote tests Dem unity in Senate Dems introduce bill requiring disclosure of guest logs from White House, Trump properties Sanders announces first staff hires in Iowa, New Hampshire MORE (R.I.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyTrump officials take bold steps on Medicaid Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump health chief reveals talks with states on Medicaid block grants | New head of FDA faces tough test | Trump officials defends work requirements in court Trump health chief reveals talks with states on Medicaid block grants MORE Jr. (Pa.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersJam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Treason narrative collapses; who bears responsibility? Pence hits 2020 Dems for skipping AIPAC MORE (I-Vt.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Judge halts drilling on Wyoming public lands over climate change | Dems demand details on Interior's offshore drilling plans | Trump mocks wind power Dem senators demand offshore drilling info before Bernhardt confirmation hearing Business groups urge Congress to combat LGBTQ discrimination in workplace MORE (Ore.) are sponsors of the resolution.

Among Finance Committee members, Democratic Sens. Schumer, Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Overnight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term MORE (W.Va.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowTrump mounts Rust Belt defense Chris Evans talks NATO, Marvel secrets on Capitol Hill Overnight Health Care: Senators grill drug execs over high prices | Progressive Dems unveil Medicare for all bill | House Dems to subpoena Trump officials over family separations MORE (Mich.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times MORE (N.J.) are co-sponsors. Bingaman is also a Finance Committee member.

Democratic Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list Climate debate comes full circle MORE (Calif.), Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home House Democrats poised to set a dangerous precedent with president’s tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (Mich.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyTop Senate Dem to Trump: It would be a 'grave mistake' to follow in Richard Nixon's footsteps Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Hillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records MORE (Vt.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandJam-packed primary poses a serious threat to Democrats in 2020 Klobuchar pressing Barr on release of Mueller report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Mueller report is huge win for President Trump MORE (N.Y.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallJosé Serrano says he has Parkinson's, will not seek reelection Udall says he will not seek reelection in 2020 Overnight Energy: DC moves closer to climate lawsuit against Exxon | Dems call for ethics investigation into Interior officials | Inslee doubles down on climate in 2020 bid MORE (N.M.), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Roland Burris (Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Dem candidate has Hawley served subpoena at CPAC Annual scorecard ranks GOP environmental efforts far below Dems in 2018 MORE (Mo.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGreen New Deal vote tests Dem unity in Senate Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law MORE (N.H.) and Benjamin Cardin (Md.) also co-sponsored the resolution.