Key Democratic Senators Oppose Public Option by Gregory Hilton

Moderate Democrats understand public opinion polls and that is a major reason why the Obama agenda is sinking on Capitol Hill. Democratic Senators Kent Conrad (ND), Max Baucus (MT) and Ben Nelson (NE) are now expected to oppose the public option on health care reform. The Senate’s number two Democrat, Dick Durbin (IL), says he can accept a bill without a public option. The President’s lobbying has been focused on the public option and this will be a major setback for the Administration.
These Democrats have been citing a study by the Lewin Group indicating that a public option could entice 119 million people to drop their private coverage, and it would be a death blow to the insurance industry. The largest existing public health programs — Medicare and Medicaid — are the main reason that the government’s long-term finances are in shambles. Sen. Conrad doesn’t believe a public option will reduce costs. He has noted “We don’t need government-run grocery stores or government-run gas stations to ensure that Americans can buy food and fuel at reasonable prices.” Conrad said he would not vote for any health care reform that funded abortions, care for illegal immigrants or a plan that mandates end-of-life counseling.
A public option bill can not pass the Senate but 64 House Democrats are now on record saying they “simply cannot vote” for a bill that “at minimum” does not have a public option plan. They will not vote for a “co-ops” compromise. Rep. Weiner says the real opposition number is 100. There are 257 House Democrats and if you take away 64 the remaining 193 are well below the 218 needed for passage.
Liberal activist groups are working full blast on a grass roots campaign to convince progressive lawmakers to take a pledge in solid support of the public option. They do not want the President to compromise. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) just explained why the Pelosi plan scares many people: “I think if we had a good public option it would lead to single payer system.” In addition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says: “We’re going to have some type of public option, call it ‘co-op,’ call it what you want.” From the start, the Administration has always held that “the goal is non-negotiable; the path is,” as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel put it.

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