Senate Dem Leader Promises Vote Soon on Public Option

Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, shot by John Wallace

Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, shot by John Wallace


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, in a letter sent Friday to two of the Senate’s strongest proponents of the so-called “public option”, has commits to holding a vote “in the coming months” on the proposal.


This is no doubt to quell deep dissatisfaction among a number of more liberal members in the upper chamer who have said the health care reform bill moving through Congress, while making critical changes they support, does not do enough.

In the letter, sent to Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-OR, and Bernie Sanders, I-VT, Reid notes, “I was very disappointed when it became clear that we did not have the votes to keep it in,” a reference to the original bill the Majority Leader introduced in the Senate.

“I remain committed to pursuing the public option,” Reid promised, noting that while he thinks the current legislation will make the state of health care better, a public option “would provide additional competition to make insurance even more affordable.”

Reid was unable to muster the necessary 60 votes to keep the public option in the original legislation, in part due to the opposition of a number of conservative members of his own Caucus.

Any legislation Reid would bring forward, absent the protection of reconciliation, would still need 60 votes for passage, and Reid now has one less Democratic seat than he had in 2009. 

The Budget Committee is about to get started with a resolution for the new fiscal year.  There could be a push to use the reconciliation fast track procedure once again to move the public option, but it is unclear if Reid could muster the 51 votes for final passage, even using the budgetary tactic that eliminates the possibility of a filibuster.