As health care reform legislation grinds its way through Congress, the list of those opposing it has ballooned, and a week ago former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean was among them.

Now, however, Dean says he has defected from the "Kill the Bill" caucus, laughingly telling MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Tuesday that "to see the Republicans up there carrying on the way they are, I basically concluded that maybe we should just pass this thing. ... If the Republicans hate it, there must be some good in it."

A week ago, Dean was not so light-hearted. "This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate," he told Vermont Public Radio after both the public option and the Medicare buy-in had been stripped from the legislation. "Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes."

Dean took a lot of fire for those statements. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) called Dean's remarks "nonsense" and "irresponsible." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs jabbed that ""I don't think any rational person would say killing the bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point."

Now Dean appears to be looking for reasons to backpedal. "The bill was improved," he explained to Maddow, citing a few minor changes made to the Senate version over the last week. "It also is going to a conference committee with a body that did vote for a public option." He acknowledged, however, that the improvements he might hope to see come out of the conference committee "may or may not happen."

"If this bill passes, does it actually provide an appropriate foundation for a public option to be introduced as a separate matter?" Maddow asked.

"Actually, it does," Dean replied. "Once you've got the exchanges set up ... you could modify this at a later date."

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Dec. 22, 2009.

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