TPM News

MoveOn.org released a statement today about Sen. Harry Reid's announcement that the Senate health care bill will include an opt-out public option. Here's the full text, from Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org:

"Today, Senator Reid announced a bill will move to the Senate floor with the "opt-out" version of a public option. We applaud Senator Reid's leadership in standing up to the special interests who are trying to kill the public option outright, or through mechanisms like a 'trigger.'

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Is Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) a definite no vote now? In response to the news that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will include a public option (with an opt out clause) in his health care legislation, Snowe says she's not happy.

"I am deeply disappointed with the Majority Leader's decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation," Snowe said in a statement. "I still believe that a fallback, safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate."

How explicit a statement is that, though? I could be over-parsing here, but it sounds to me as if she's leaving a door pretty wide open to supporting this bill down the line. Note, she doesn't say she's withdrawing her support. And note as well that she says she thinks triggers could have been the path to broader bipartisan consensus--i.e. instead of being the path to just one Republican vote (hers), triggers might have won over a few more GOPers.

She's said she doesn't support the opt out. She's also said it would be very hard for her not to join a Republican health care filibuster under these circumstances. But, despite what Reid said, it's not clear to me that she's completely jumped ship.

A source in the campaign of Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate in the three-way NY-23 special election, tells us that another member of Congress will be endorsing Hoffman: This time, it's Rep. John Linder (R-GA).

Linder will be the third sitting member of Congress to openly back the Conservative Hoffman over the moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava, following Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS).

Late Update: Linder's office has confirmed the endorsement. Here's Linder's statement:

"The biggest concern I have with the Republican candidate in this race is that her long held positions on unions, taxes and spending incline me to believe that she will give Nancy Pelosi a Republican vote so that these many outrageous grabs for power and control will be called 'bipartisan.' I am confident that Doug will not do that."

Health Care for American Now released a statement today about Sen. Harry Reid's announcement that the Senate health care bill will include an opt-out public option. Here's the full text, from Richard Kirsch, HCAN's national campaign manager:

"We applaud Majority Leader Reid's leadership in making sure the Senate bill includes a public health insurance option to lower costs and inject much-needed competition into the health insurance marketplace. We appreciate his recognizing a public health insurance option is key to achieving meaningful reform, protecting consumers, and keeping insurers honest.

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Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) released a statement today applauding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's announcement on the Senate health care reform bill:

"This is big news, and it's very good news. Majority Leader Reid is taking the gutsy and appropriate road in fighting for the right policy, something the American people want and an issue on which every Senator should be held accountable. That's why I voted for it in the Finance Committee and why I've advocated for it since day one. Leader Reid has laid out a plan that is reasonable and fair and will help achieve quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Ted Kennedy once told me there were many ways to arrive at health care reform, and he always knew that the first step was in finding every possible avenue to fight for the best policy. That's the tradition the Majority Leader is carrying on today."

An interesting line comes out from Sen. Sherrod Brown in response to the news Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is including a public option with an opt-out clause.

Brown (D-OH) is one of the leading progressives pushing a "robust" public option. He applauded Reid's move and challenged states with some political rhetoric:

"While the bill would allow a state to opt-out of offering the public option to its residents, I am confident that the states will choose to put middle class families ahead of the insurance industry."

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held a press conference today to announce that the Senate health care reform bill will include an opt-out public option. Here's the full transcript, via Congressional Quarterly:

REID: Good afternoon, everyone.

The last two weeks has been a great opportunity to work with the White -- White House, Senators Dodd and Baucus on this critical issue of reforming our health insurance system.

We've had productive, meaningful discussions about how to craft the strongest bill, the strongest bill coming from a meld of the two bills, the HELP bill and the Finance bill.

I feel good about the consensus that was reached within our caucus and with the White House. And we're all optimistic about reform because of the unprecedented momentum that now exists.

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Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, who was reportedly none too pleased when he learned that Harry Reid was leaning towards putting a public option in the Senate's health care bill, is now singing a much more positive tune. "It is time to make our system work better for patients and providers, for small business owners and for our economy. It is time for health care reform," Baucus said.

For more than a year, we've been working to meet the goals of reducing the growth of health care costs, improving quality and efficiency and expanding coverage. There are a tremendous number of complicated issues that go into reform and the public option is certainly one of them. I included a public option in the health reform blueprint I released nearly one year ago, and continue to support any provision, including a public option, that will ensure choice and competition and get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. Success should be our threshold and I am going to fight hard for the 60 votes we need to meet that goal this year.


There's still some wiggle room there. (Will Baucus help twist arms to get to 60?) But he seems to be implying that he thinks the public option plus opt-out can clear the threshold--and that's the first clear statement of his abstract support for the provision in quite some time.

Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate in the three-way NY-23 special election, has a TV ad in which he casts both of his two opponents, moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, as advocates for George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich.

"I'm opposed to raising taxes on the middle class or small business in any way," says Owens. "But I think we should get of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. My two opponents both want to keep those tax cuts for the wealthy, even though they would add $500 billion to the deficit."

This race has been dominated by the split in Republican ranks, between Scozzafava and Hoffman, which would seemingly hand Owens the win. However, Owens' challenge is to maintain his own profile and contrast himself against the other two, in order to avoid being overlooked by the voters.

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