One of the most dogged public option advocates in the Senate--and a key liaison between progressives and leadership--says no way, no how to yet another compromise.
"There's no negotiations as far as I'm concerned," insisted Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). "We've compromised the public option three times, maybe four, depending on how you define it. This bill is not going to continue to become more pro-insurance company."
So the opt out is where you draw the line?
"Yeah, the opt out was not our first choice. Delinking from Medicare was not our first choice," Brown said.
Several conservative Democrats have entrenched their positions against the public option, and have threatened to filibuster the health care bill if it's not further compromised
"I think in the end that none of my colleagues want to be on the wrong side of history," Brown said. "I think that no Democrat wants to kill the most important bill in their political lives--in their careers--on a procedural vote."
That creates some complicated math. With Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) insisting that he'll filibuster any bill that includes public option of any kind--even a trigger--Reid has a maximum of 59 votes in his caucus for a health care bill. That means to retain a public option at all Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) must be brought aboard, and she's said the measure must be changed to a trigger of some sort.
Brown says he won't be helping in that effort: "I'm not drawing a line in the sand. I am not part of any effort to give the insurance companies more."
So what if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tries to amend the bill to include triggers to win over the centrist hold outs.
"The leader's not going to do that," Brown said. "The leader knows where the party is, knows where the Senate is, knows where the country is."
The difficulty, of course, is that Snowe isn't in the Democratic party. And she is has once again become a major focus.
"For me, I want to make sure at the end of the day that Senator Snowe will feel comfortable in joining us," Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) told reporters today. Carper has been attempting to broker a compromise on the public option modeled on Snowe's trigger.
"What I'm beginning to conclude is that the concerns that have been expressed by centrists...and the concerns that are being expressed by our liberal colleagues--and that's the need for more competition in states where affordability is a problem--I think those concerns can be met," Carper said.
The goal in the coming days, then, will be to bridge the gap between Brown and Snowe.
"Harry Reid had a tough decision because overwhelmingly his caucus supported the public option, and he gave an opt out to satisfy those who were opposed to it," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters. "I think it was a reasonable position, Senator Snowe saw it differently.