Finance Committee Continues Consideration of Rockefeller’s Public Option Amendment

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The Senate Finance Committee is back from lunch and picking up where it left off–debating an amendment by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) that would add a public option to Max Baucus’ health care proposal.

1:55 p.m.: Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) doesn’t like the public option…but he thinks all government officials and their staffs should be on it if the Democrats create one. A lot of Democrats oppose this (“it’s a public option, including for us). But for what it’s worth, the Senate HELP committee adopted an amendment that institutes this requirement, but only to members of Congress and their staffs.

2:03 p.m. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) notes smartly that any public option tied to Medicare will be tied to a newer, better Medicare that will correct for rural disparities, and reward providers that provide cost-effective care, and move away from fee for service. That undermines Kent Conrad’s objection to a pretty significant extent. More on this soon.

2:09 p.m.Cantwell also says she’ll be offering an amendment that will allow private insurers to team with the government to negotiate lower rates. Your move, Kent!2:18 p.m.: Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) becomes (I think) the first senator of the day to cite the August town hall disruptions as evidence that, despite numerous polls showing this not to be the case, the public doesn’t support the public option. Over the months, most data I’ve seen has support for the public option hovering between about 65 and 75 percent.

2:21 p.m.: Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) makes the point more clearly than any of his colleagues. The public option will not be an entitlement. It will be a government insurance plan that people pay for, at rates that will cover all the costs of the services provided. That’s key–the law would have to be changed for the government to be able to subsidize it, and, therefore, for the plan to slip down the slope toward a tax-funded single payer system.

2:28 p.m.: Remember how John Ensign tried to argue that U.S. health care outcomes are great, and that life expectancy here would be higher than in other developed countries if it weren’t for gunshot fatalities and car crashes and other Made in America peculiarities? Well, it turns out he got that statistic from serial health care liar Betsy McCaughey. And, like much of what she says, it has been debunked.

2:34 p.m.: It’s almost as if John Cornyn wasn’t listening when his colleague from Massachusetts was speaking. Quoting loosely, ‘Why would you create a new government entitlement….’ Old dogs, new tricks? Now he’s grousing that private insurance won’t get a fair shake…

2:41 p.m.: Baucus says there’s a lot he likes about the Rockefeller amendment, but…. his first job is to get his bill “across the finish line” and as such he will oppose the amendment.

2:49 p.m.: Faced with the imminent demise of his public option proposal, Rockefeller lashes out at Republicans–and some Democrats–for their misrepresentations of his plan, and for their willingness to support the status quo.

“If you want a single payer system, just vote no.” The vote will happen momentarily.

2:55 p.m.: The amendment failed by a vote of 8-15, with Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) voting with the Republicans.

Editor’s Note: The previous TPMDC liveblog on the Senate Finance Committee debate is here. The next one is here.

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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