TPM News

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) raised hackles among liberals earlier this week when he claimed that the public option wasn't a part of the 2008 presidential campaign. He repeated that claim to reporters tonight, though acknowledged, when pressed, that then-candidate Barack Obama did in fact include a public option in his campaign health care proposal.

"This is a kindof 11th hour addition to a debate that's gone on for decades," Lieberman told reporters tonight. "Nobody's ever talked about a public option before. Not even in the presidential campaign last year."

I asked in response, "How do you reconcile your contention that the public option wasn't part of the presidential campaign given that all three of the [leading Democratic] candidates had something along the lines of the public option in their white papers?'

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Remarks, as prepared for delivery, by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a press conference on Nov 21, 2009, after the Senate voted 60-39 to move to debate a health insurance reform bill:

"I want to commend the Senators who showed tonight that they are not afraid of debate, and the courageous Senators like those standing with me now who led the way.

"What happened just now has never happened in the long history of the United States Senate. For the first time ever, the Senate will debate a bill that puts health care decisions in the hands of the people.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on Nov. 21, 2009, after the Senate 60-39 vote to begin debate on a health care reform bill:

"I voted to proceed on health care reform because our current health care system is disintegrating and must be reformed. Forty-six million Americans are uninsured, and 45,000 die every year because they don't have access to a doctor. We have almost one million Americans going bankrupt because of medically-related diseases, health care costs are soaring and we end up spending almost twice as much per person on health care as any other nation. It is clear that we need real health care reform.

"While I voted to proceed to the health care legislation tonight, I have made it clear to the administration and Democratic leadership that my vote for the final bill is by no means guaranteed. In the weeks to come I intend to do everything I can to make this legislation stronger and more effective for working families and taxpayers in Vermont and America and something all Americans can be proud of."

After a successful vote to begin debate on a landmark health care bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid addressed the news, first reported by TPMDC, that conservative Democrats are working with public option supporter Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on a compromise.

"I welcome Sen. Schumer, Landrieu and Carper--Landrieu said that they're working together on a public option that's acceptable to [all parties]."

Asked by TPMDC about Schumer's role in the negotiations, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) applauded his colleague. "Senator Schumer, when he's not hunting, works with a lot of different individuals on a lot of different points," Nelson said. "He was the one that came up with the idea of opting out--I don't think it sold very well, but he has the ability to be very pragmatic about a lot of these issues, and that makes him very important in the process."

Public option stalwart Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said he hopes that triggers aren't ultimately affixed to the public option, but isn't alarmed that Reid isn't tamping down on the negotiations.

"That's been Harry from the very beginning. He's always said that, and he's always meant it," Rockefeller said.

Late update: Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon emails a statement to TPMDC. He says discussions with centrists, such as they are, are in their earliest stages. "Leading up to tonight's vote, some senators expressed a desire to discuss the public option currently in the Senate bill. Of course, Senator Schumer did not rule that out. But no such talks have yet taken place, and there is not any compromise at hand beyond what Leader Reid has already inserted into the bill. Senator Schumer remains a strong proponent of the opt-out, level playing field public option."

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine issued the following statement on Nov. 21, 2009, after the Senate voted 60-39 to begin full debate of the health insurance reform bill:

"Today, the Senate took another historic step on the road to enacting health insurance reform. By clearing this first procedural hurdle, senators will now have an opportunity to debate the health reform bill on the Senate floor and continue to make progress on delivering health insurance reform to the American people. I want to extend my congratulations to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Dick Durbin for their tenacity in bringing the bill to the floor, and thank countless other senators for their commitment to reform as the Senate begins this historic debate.

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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele issued the following statement on Nov 21, 2009, in reaction to the 60-39 Senate procedural vote on health care reform:

"Tonight a number of moderate Democrats sacrificed their principles to give Harry Reid a victory that brings America dangerously closer to having a government-run health care system. Make no mistake: this was not a free vote. A vote in favor of this procedural motion paves the way for the bill's final adoption, which would impose a government-run health care experiment on America that increases premiums, increases taxes, cuts Medicare and allows for taxpayer-funded abortions. As the recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey showed, Harry Reid's health care scheme is exactly what voters do not want. President Obama, Harry Reid and their liberal Senate allies will surely gloat and pat themselves on the back for winning tonight's vote in the dark of night during a rare Saturday session, while Americans were home with their families. But as they do, those moderate Democrats who voted for Harry Reid's bill will have to answer to their constituents."

The following statement was issued on Nov. 21, 2009, by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in response to the 60-39 procedural vote on health care reform:

"The President is gratified that the Senate has acted to begin consideration of health insurance reform legislation. Tonight's historic vote brings us one step closer to ending insurance company abuses, reining in spiraling health care costs, providing stability and security to those with health insurance, and extending quality health coverage to those who lack it. The President looks forward to a thorough and productive debate."

The following statement was issued on Nov. 21, 2009, by Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for the pro-reform umbrella group Health Care for America Now, in response to the 60-39 Senate vote on cloture:

"By voting to begin debate, Senate Democrats took another key step toward putting a bill on the President's desk that guarantees good, affordable coverage for America's families and businesses.

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The remarks of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as prepared for delivery, given on Nov. 21, 2009, on the Senate floor about the procedural vote on health insurance reform bill:

"For two hundred years we have styled ourselves the world's greatest deliberative body. Deliberation necessarily implies discussion, and great issues necessarily require debate.

"Today we vote whether to even discuss one of the greatest issues of our generation - indeed, one of the greatest issues this body has ever face: whether this nation will finally guarantee its people the right to live free from the fear of illness and death, which can be prevented by decent health care for all.

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On a perfectly partisan, 60-39 vote, the Senate agreed tonight to debate and amend a far-reaching health care bill. That debate will get started in earnest after Congress returns from next week's Thanksgiving recess. Democrats and Republicans expect to offer hundreds of amendments (each of which will be held to a 60 vote threshold) and debate for several weeks before holding yet another procedural supermajority vote--to end debate. If that gets 60 votes, then there will be an up-or-down vote on passage of the bill.

If the bill passes it will likely undergo yet more changes in conference with House negotiators. The "conference report" that emerges from that process can't be amended, but can be filibustered in the Senate, so will likely require 60 votes for passage. Only after both chambers have passed the conference report can the bill be sent to President Obama for a signature.