Reid avoids public option commitment

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee Bottom line MORE (D-Nev.) avoided any commitment to a public option component to the Senate's final healthcare bill Wednesday, as well as to any deadline for the bill's passage.

The majority leader said he won't decide whether to include a public option until after the Finance Committee passes a bill that is then merged with a competing version passed this summer by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The Obama administration has generally pushed for a public option component to healthcare legislation, and both Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE Jr. and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have recently tossed out the idea of a Thanksgiving deadline. Reid's stance on Wednesday asserted a measure of independence from the administration, although he emphasized that he would consult with Obama officials throughout the process.

Reid said he plans to merge the two bills in coordination with the White House, Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBottom line Bottom line Bottom line MORE (D-Mont.) and HELP Committee Chairman Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers A pandemic election should move America to address caregivers' struggles The Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring MORE (D-Iowa) and Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). He predicted the Finance Committee would wrap up its work on the bill "in the next few days." The Finance Committee voted 15-8 on Tuesday to strip a public option out of the committee version of the bill.

"I support a public option, and time will determine what's in the bill," Reid told reporters at a mid-afternoon press conference. "We'll get it to the floor as soon as we can. We have tried deadlines in the past, and I think the deadline they've given is way far in the future. We should be able to get something done by then. But I have learned in this healthcare debate that I'm not going to set any arbitrary deadlines."