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 BrownOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Lawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate 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 DurbinThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Senate Democrats request watchdog, Red Cross probe DHS detention facilities Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran MORE (D-Ill.) also co-sponsored the resolution.
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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.
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“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 SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' 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 ReedSenate panel advances Trump's Space Force Senate panel rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps, advances defense bill that backfills wall money Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info MORE (R.I.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs MORE (R.I.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick Casey2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues Why Congress needs to bring back tax deduction for worker expenses Biden cements spot as 2020 front-runner MORE Jr. (Pa.), Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Democrats join striking McDonald's workers Billionaire's M gift to Morehouse grads points way to student debt solution Poll: Nearly half of Clinton's former supporters back Biden MORE (I-Vt.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump Senators introduce bill to end warrantless searches of electronic devices at border MORE (Ore.) are sponsors of the resolution.

Among Finance Committee members, Democratic Sens. Schumer, Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (W.Va.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCongress: Support legislation to defend Medicare home health  Dems want climate change, tax hikes in infrastructure deal Critics accuse EPA of weakening pollution rule for Pentagon MORE (Mich.) and Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezEnding the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison MORE (N.J.) are co-sponsors. Bingaman is also a Finance Committee member.

Democratic Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list 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 LeahySenate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight MORE (Vt.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth Gillibrand2020 Democrats join striking McDonald's workers Fox News contributor Campos-Duffy compares abortion to slavery 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE (N.Y.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Dem senator plans amendment to restrict military action against Iran Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info MORE (N.M.), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Roland Burris (Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Big Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill MORE (Mo.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Senate defense bill would pull Turkey from F-35 partnership if it buys Russian missile system Trump, Europe increasingly at odds on Iran MORE (N.H.) and Benjamin Cardin (Md.) also co-sponsored the resolution.