In a press conference after the Democrats successfully rounded up enough votes to break a Republican filibuster preventing debate on the party's healthcare overhaul proposal Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) signaled that members of his caucus are planning to water down the public insurance option originally proposed.
The so-called public option would create a government-run competitor to private insurers in some areas.
Responding to reporters' questions, Reid said: "I welcome [Sen.] Schumer, Landrieu and Carper’s work to get a public option acceptable to all Democrats."
Firedoglake's David Dayen transcribed some of Reid's remarks after the Senate voted to begin debate on the healthcare bill.
Q: [Sens.] Lincoln (D-AR) and Lieberman (I-CT) don’t want a public option, what are you going to do?
Reid: I welcome Schumer, Landrieu and Carper’s work to get a public option acceptable to all Democrats.
Q: Do you have 60?
Reid: When we have 60 votes, we’ll get it to the President.
Q: What’s that about Landrieu?
Reid: My understanding is that Landrieu said today she’s working with Schumer and Carper to come up with an alternative.
Q: You said Vicki Kennedy called?
Reid: Just a few minutes ago, Vicki Kennedy called after the vote. She was crying pretty hard. We both said that Ted would have been happy. We both felt that he would have been watching.
Q: Is history on your side?
Reid: I’m a student of history. I really do believe that we’re in an historic time in the history of our country. This has been far too long in the making. We’re going to get health care reform. The American people need it and they deserve it. Half of those who file for bankruptcy do it because of health care costs. And half of those people had insurance. So we need to do this.
Dayen notes: "So Reid just confirmed that Chuck Schumer is working with Mary Landrieu and Tom Carper to reach some kind of compromise on the public option that can satisfy everyone in the caucus. The dealmaking has begun. Expect the word “trigger” to come back into the political lexicon any day now."
The trigger option would create a public government-run insurance competitor if and only if insurers failed to meet pre-set criteria -- which liberals say would be caving to the private managed healthcare industry.
Landrieu wrangled $100 million in dedicated aid from Democratic leaders before endorsing a vote on debate over the bill.
"It is clear to me that doing nothing is not an option," Landrieu said.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), the last Democratic holdout to endorse debate, said her vote would "mark the beginning of consideration of this bill by the U.S. Senate, not the end."
Neither Lincoln or Landrieu have endorsed a public option, even though their states are among those with heavy uninsured populations. According to one estimate, nearly one in five residents of Arkansas are uninsured.