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Key Senators React To Lieberman's Fuzzy Public Option Logic

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Newscom / RAMIN TALAIE

I asked her how this view of the public option squares with Lieberman's view that the public option will break the government's bank. After all, if it's driving premiums down so low that insurance companies go out of business, it's clearly saving the government--which will be subsidizing insurance plans--significant amounts of money.

"No," she said. The issue, she added, was that the public option "drives the industry out."

"I believe in, to the extent possible, to allow the private sector to provide a solution," Snowe said.

So what about a public option proponent like Dodd. What are his thoughts on Lieberman's policy eccentricities?

"Joe and I are good friends," Dodd told me, "and there's a difference on this and that's certainly his right to express it.... I'm disappointed we're not in agreement on this, but that happens from time to time on issues."

He did acknowledge the consensus on the public option: "I believe it brings down costs, I think it's going to save money as well," Dodd said. "And so I'm still hopeful that before we complete this process there'll be a lot more support for the public option, possibly even a good colleague and friend from Connecticut."

Lieberman's argument is that the public option will need significant infusions of government money to survive. But here's how Delaware Sen. Tom Carper described the plan under consideration by Senate health care principals.

The public option, he said, must "have to retain earnings, create a retained earnings pool, so that if they run into financial problems later on the financial needs of the plan could be met by the retained earnings, not by the federal government."

Oh well.

About The Author

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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