Source: Leadership Poised To Add Public Option, Moderates Mostly Mum

October 22, 2009 12:49 p.m.

Where did all of this momentum for the public option come from? According to a source close to negotiations, it came from last night’s closed door meeting between Senate and White House officials, with the push coming from Democratic leadership.

“It’s definitely being considered,” the source said, referring to the public option compromise that may end up in the Senate’s health care bill.

“It came out at last night’s meeting,” the source indicated. “It was indicated that based on some surveying that had been done of the moderates, that it doesn’t so far seem like they would jump out of their skin as long as they have an opportunity to vote to strip it.”

Any provision in the base bill that hits the Senate floor will stay in unless 60 senators can band together to strip it out. That means if a public option is included now, it’s almost certain not to go anywhere. According to both Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and other sources, the compromise being considered would create a national public option that pays providers at negotiated rates. Unlike similar so-called “level-playing-field” public option proposals, it would not be operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, but by a separate entity, with a board of directors appointed by the government.

This fact, apparently, didn’t sit well with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who is determined to keep Sen. Olympia Snowe’s vote.“Baucus met with moderates this morning and got them nervous.” Or tried at least. Snowe clearly laid down her mark. And Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) didn’t seem particularly pleased. But of all the Senate’s conservative Democrats, none have yet rebelled.

“People have been sort of saying, It doesn’t make me jump off the ledge.” We’ll be keeping our eye on them as the week winds down.

We also may know soon whether the White House will fully get behind the idea–and if they don’t, it’s possible that this trial balloon will pop. But key Democrats in the Senate are walking right up to the edge. It’s getting to the point where they’ll have an uncomfortable time reversing course.

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