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Schumer: We Prevailed On White House That Public Option Was The Way To Go

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Does that mean that triggers are dead? Schumer wouldn't characterize things that way, but he did note that, as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggested, the move risked alienating many in the caucus.

"I think that, to many many people in the caucus...the trigger was never very attractive. I think it was Jay Rockefeller that said whenever you have the trigger, it never goes into effect," Schumer said.

At the very least, then, triggers were dealt a very serious blow today. But what happens now in the House? Should leaders there settle on a public option with negotiated rates to minimize the differences between their bill and the Senate's bill? Or should House Speaker Nancy Pelosi keep pushing for a public option that sets reimbursement rates slightly above Medicare's, to ensure that the most robust public option on offer gets a hearing in the final negotiations?

Schumer's mostly mum, "each body has to find its sort of middle point in the Democratic caucus, and I think this is the middle point in the Senate."

But, he says, the public option will redound to Democrats' benefit in the end.

"I think the public is for the public option. During those bad days in mid-summer, the dog days of August, the hard right misinformed the public as to what a public option was." Schumer says. "They said it was a mandate."

"I had lots of people coming up to me to say 'I like my insurance, why are you forcing me,'" into a government health care plan. But ultimately, he says, Democrats' repetition of the word "option," and the theme "choice," helped them win the argument with the public.

I asked Schumer whether he thinks Democrats made the right decision by calling it "the public option" instead of using the Medicare brand name to make it more appealing to the public.

"Yes, definitely," Schumer said. "In America, people like choices."

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