Sen. Tom Harkin: “We will have a bill on the president’s desk before Christmas, a health-reform bill. It will have a lot of good stuff in it. It will have a lot of prevention and wellness programs in there that I’ve been fighting for. And it will have a public option… The question of if it doesn’t isn’t even an option.”
Plus, Republicans won’t be involved in putting a bill together: “This will be a proposal by the Democrats to bring a bill on the floor. And that’s what I have said before, that the people of this country… pretty overwhelmingly elected Barack Obama last fall and to make changes. The people of this country overwhelmingly elected Democrats to the House and Senate… We should be proposing the changes to be made.”
Sen. Harry Reid: “We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president’s desk… believe the public option is so vitally important to create a level playing field and prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of us.”
The two comments sound very much the same, suggesting that both Harkin and Reid were uttering talking points. Still, this is a very promising development. As many of us have been saying for a long time, Republicans had their chance. Obama reached to them, as did Senate Democrats. And how did they respond? With obstructionism or outright opposition, because they have no interest in reform and are trying to block it no matter what. And so, of course, it makes sense for Democrats now to go it alone, with or without the few remaining Republican centrists.
It sounds to me, though, like there is now a firm commitment to including a public option in whatever bill goes to the floor. There’s really no way Democrats can back away from it now — their own leader, Reid, has committed to it. But will the bill that ultimately emerges from Congress include a public option? Well, that’s the key question. And it’s still not clear what the answer is. I certainly hope Harkin is right.
(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)