Nelson: Public Option May Be Popular, But Opt-Outs Are Really Popular

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For weeks now, Greg Sargent has been making the point that, though polling shows the public wants health care reform to be bipartisan, what it really shows is that people think bipartisanship is nice, they’d happily scotch it if that’s what it takes to secure a public option.

That doesn’t exactly square with the pronouncements of some conservative Democrats–particularly Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)–who say bipartisanship is a crucial part of health care reform’s legitimacy with the public. I caught up with Nelson earlier today and asked him to speak to the poll’s findings.

“Well, there are different kinds of public options…. What was interesting in the poll numbers that I saw, that while there’s support for public option generally, generically, when you start talking about it specifically as it relates to states being able to opt out or opt in, have their own, the support overwhelmingly goes up to 76 percent.”And what of the idea that people would prefer a partisan bill if it meant a public option rather than a bipartisan bill that scraps the public option?

“Well, I don’t know. It depends on what the public option is. Once again, were talking about the public option as though there’s a single definition or a single concept. There are multiple concepts about a public option and the problem is we all talk about it as though they’re all the same and they’re not. So that’s why when somebody says ‘are you for a public option?’ Define the public option and I can tell you.”

That doesn’t quite get to the heart of the contradiction between Nelson’s paeans to public’s desire for bipartisanship. But Nelson does seem to accept the idea that the public wants a public option, even if that means a Democrat-only bill, and using the data to argue that what people really want is a compromise on the public option.

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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