With Health Reform At Stake, Senators Scramble To Reach Public Option Compromise

Roll Call Photos/Newscom

Key Democrats in the Senate, accompanied by party leadership, are bearing down on a solution to the public option problem that has dogged the caucus for months now. They’re holding a constant series of meetings, bringing liberals and conservatives together to reach a compromise–seemingly modeled on a trigger–that can garner 60 votes. And interestingly, one key public option supporter seems pleased.

“There’s sort of a new initiative on the public option, which is highly useful, without saying anything more about it,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). “There’s going to be a group of people representing various points of view who are going to just closet themselves and try and resolve this so we can have something on the floor that can pass,” he said.

“It’s been taking place, it’s ongoing, several different rooms, several different groups,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin.

Included in the meeting, according to Durbin, are the well-known public option skeptics, and, on the other side of the party, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“I’m doing my best to do what I can do,” Sanders said.

“It’s one of the two, i think, really critical issues remaining, with the issue of abortion,” Durbin said.“There are a number of us that are for a strong public option. There’s those that aren’t,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) told me. “Somewhere we’ll meet in the middle.

“We are all in direct conversations about this,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). “Now it’s come to a head.”

“It’s an informal, but aggressive…individual and small group discussions with a variety of different senators with different viewpoints to try to find a place of principled compromise,” Landrieu said.

According to Landrieu, the focus right now is on a version of a proposal, first proposed by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and modified by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), to attach the public option to a trigger.

“What I could support is something like a competitive community option…which would be triggered,” Landrieu said. “Various moderates have slightly different versions of that.”

“That’s where the discussion is right now,” Landrieu added. “There has to be a decision soon.”