I just got off a conference call with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). They are confident — very confident — that health care reform will include a public option.“The health care bill that is signed into law by the President will have a good, strong, robust public option,” Schumer said.
How that will happen remains an open question. But the Senators assured reporters on the call that we’re all going to get a taste of their passion and persuasiveness on this issue at the ongoing Senate Finance Committee hearings on Friday.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Rockefeller said of the public option. “Chuck Schumer thinks it’s a great idea. And we’re going to be all over it tomorrow.”
Schumer said there will be a “full-blown debate” and that “even though the public option might be the underdog in the Senate Finance Committee, don’t count it out.”
“Tomorrow is the opening day in our big fight,” he said.
Reporters tried to press on how, exactly, a public option would make its way out of the Senate Finance Committee, let alone make it to the President’s desk. Will a public option amendment be tacked onto the Baucus bill? Will it be added on the Senate floor? How many votes do the Democrats have on a public health insurance option? Will they try to pass it through a 51-Senator reconciliation vote?
Rockefeller responded to TPM’s question by saying “I think we have a good shot of getting it out of the Finance Committee.”
He continued: “Don’t rule it out. Don’t fall victim to this feeling that it’s not going to happen.”
Schumer said that “a large majority of Democrats are for a public option” — but that the ratio is higher in the House than the Senate, and higher in the Senate than in the Senate Finance Committee.
“I think we have a real good chance on the Senate floor,” he said.
As for timelines: Rockefeller said the bill won’t make it out of committee this week, but was hesitant to say anything more. Part of the problem, he said, is that Republicans have been “slow-walking this entire process” while offering “no useful legislating.”
So get ready. Because at least two Senators are promising some fireworks on the public option Friday.