In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Key Senators Say Dem Leadership Entertaining Idea Of Weak Public Option

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"The states are one way to go," she said

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who also sits on Finance and supports a public option as enthusiastically as Stabenow does, added, "There are state options that are devised in such a way that only a region of the state is included, in which case that's not really a significant public option."

"If the whole state is included in a public option -- they have that option -- well that's a much more significant standard than some that have been proposed," Menendez told reporters.

Liberals and health care reformers--including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have intentionally spent months making it clear that state-based plans don't meet muster. They say that the definition of a public option implies that it's available as soon as the legislation takes effect, that it's available nationally, and that it is accountable to taxpayers.

In the House of Representatives, for instance, the fight right now is about how the public option will reimburse providers--not about its extent or it's date of implementation.

Still, Menendez isn't ruling out a public option that matches the reformers' criterion. "I think that Sen. Schumer's [level playing field] provision...has a lot of appeal, and I would hope that we move forward in that direction and maybe some further tweaks to it that would make it more acceptable to others who have some concerns."