Carper: With Blessing From Leadership, We Will File A Public Option Amendment

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On the Saturday before Thanksgiving recess, the Senate agreed to debate a health care bill, which includes a public option with a state opt-out clause, and Democratic leaders were in early discussions with moderates–who have made their objections to the opt-out perfectly clear–on an alternative proposed by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). With the Senate back in session, it seems those negotiations are continuing.

Carper will soon be meeting with conservative Democrats to discuss the progress of the alternative. “[Senator Carper] got something set for tomorrow night,” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told me. “we’ll know more then, hopefully.”

Carper demurred on the exact date and time of the meeting, but indicated that discussions continue apace, and that he will move ahead with an amendment once leadership gives him the high sign. “I’m not sure that there’s a meeting tomorrow–I lose track of these things,” Carper said in response to a question from TPMDC. “We’ll certainly file an amendment–if encouraged by our leadership.”

“I think–at the end–the reason why we’re going through this effort is to try to find a way to get to 60,” Carper said.Carper’s idea is modeled in some ways after Sen. Olympia Snowe’s “trigger” proposal. It would implement the public option in states that fail to meet pre-determined affordability standards–and, according to Carper, could even be written to allow states that do meet the federal standard opt-in if that’s what their governments choose.

The compromise will have to be sold to liberal Democrats, who think the public option has been watered down too much already.

“I have continually felt that all the choices–private and public–ought to be available from day one,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told me. “I have made it clear to Senator Schumer, Senator Carper, and others that I am open to a variety of approaches, but to me what this has always been about, is making sure that at the end of the day there’s a way to hold insurance companies accountable.”

After a brief interview with Wyden, I ran into Schumer and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on their way into a private meeting on the first floor of the Capitol. Before walking in, Brown told me that the public option was not discussed at the weekly Democratic caucus lunch today, but suggested it might come up in their tête-à-tête. Thirty minutes later, neither senator would comment on their discussion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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