A prominent Democratic Senator said Thursday that the Republican Party will get no say when the U.S. Senate merges two key health reform bills.


To Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), that means two things: A health bill will pass before Christmas and it will include a public health insurance option that Americans can buy into.

"We will have a bill on the president’s desk before Christmas, a health-reform bill," he said during a conference call, according to The Des Moines Register. "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."

"Exactly how that public option will look … well, that remains to be seen," he continued, reported the Iowa Independent. "But it will have a public option."

The Hill added: "It is unclear whether [Democratic Senator Max] Baucus supports Harkin's stated refusal to invite Republicans to the merging table, an effort that likely will not take place for at least another two weeks. However, the mere suggestion of the party's exclusion is sure to anger the Senate's most vocal Republicans, who have recently ramped up their criticism of the Democrats' healthcare reform strategy."

"Harkin says the bills from the House and Senate have a lot of the same provisions and he believes they will be able to put both together in an acceptable form," reported Radio Iowa. "He says merging the two will not be a walk in the park, but he says it will also not be overwhelming."

Harkin became chairman of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee after Ted Kennedy died. He promised an audience of Iowans in September that Congress would not pass a bill without a "strong" public option.

"[It] now falls to me to pick up the torch," he reportedly said.

"Mark my word — I’m the chairman — [the bill is] going to have a strong public option," Harkin said.