The spokesman for Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu told Raw Story Monday that removing the public option from the Senate's health care reform bill wouldn't be enough to win her vote.
"The senator's number one concern is passing a bill that drives down costs," Landrieu's Communications Director Aaron Saunders said during a phone interview with Raw Story. "And that's costs for families, costs for small businesses and costs for the government."
A New York Times story indicated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may drop the public option from the final version of the Senate's health care reform legislation.
According to the Times, in order to appeal to Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe "as well as to centrist Democrats like Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana," Reid's effort to reconcile competing health care reform proposals "would not include a proposal for a government-run insurance plan, or public option, despite the clamoring of liberals who support it, senior Democratic Senate aides said."
The Plum Line's Greg Sargent says Reid's staff is "aggressively shooting down" the Times story and that no decision has been made on the public option. Even so, the public option may not make or break the votes of Nelson, Snowe and Landrieu.
Staff for Snowe and Nelson did not immediately return phone calls from Raw Story, but Saunders in Landrieu's office said the public option was not her primary concern. According to Saunders, Landrieu will support a bill if it has "cost-containment approaches" for families, small businesses and the government.
"She'll look at the comprehensive bill," Saunders said. "But the number one priority is that it contains costs."
The Times article added that top staffers from both the Senate Finance and the Senate health committees have begun meeting to hash out differences between the legislation endorsed by their respective panels. The health committee proposal includes a public option and is "far more expensive," per the Times.
Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak says it doesn't matter which plan passes the Senate. According to Mackowiak, a former spokesman for Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, "the end game is reconciliation."
"The Senate can pass anything, it doesn't matter what it is," Mackowiak told Raw Story, noting the House has the votes to pass legislation, and that if the Senate passes any version of a health care reform bill the measure will automatically go to a conference committee where members of both Houses will decide what to present as the final version.
"All they need to do [in the Senate] is pass anything the first time, then it goes into conference where they can't filibuster it, and it becomes as simple as a 51 majority that could pass sweeping health care reform for the country," Mackowiak said.