Rockefeller Backs Away From Public Option–Is He Bluffing?

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Last night, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)–a long-time public option advocate–dealt a rough blow to members and progressives who think Democrats should pass the popular measure using the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.

“I’m probably not going to vote for that,” Rockefeller said. “I don’t think the timing of it is very good.”

Earlier in the evening, in a brief interview with TPMDC, Rockefeller expressed concern that playing hardball with the public option at this time could imperil reform, but he didn’t say he’d oppose it.“I don’t know, I think the timing of the public option piece of legislation, which is not in what the President’s going to suggest at the summit I think, doing that could create a lot of turbulence when we don’t need it,” Rockefeller told me.

A bit of context here. Rockefeller is one of the handful of Democrats who will be attending Thursday’s health care summit, almost all of whom support the public option, and almost none of whom have pledged to support passing a public option through reconciliation. There is a sense among some of those members that pushing the public option before the bipartisan summit is, at least symbolically, putting the cart before the horse.

However, Rockefeller does seem to have gone farther than that, telling other reporters he would likely vote against a public option if it came up during reconciliation, or was built into a reconciliation bill. Even if that’s just posturing ahead of the summit, that doesn’t help the members and outside groups that, to this point, have built surprising momentum to revive the government insurance plan. We’ll be keep an eye on this, to see how it plays out.

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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