Yesterday a key Senate committee turned back attempts to include a public insurance option in its sweeping health care proposal. That happened after some of moderate Democrats joined Republicans in arguing that a government plan would represent too much of an intrusion into the private sector.
The votes by the Senate Finance Committee were a setback for advocates of creating a public plan to compete with private insurance companies under the new health care system that President Obama and Democrats have envisioned.
But proponents vowed to continue the fight. Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said the public option was vital to “adding competition to the coagulated, ossified, and fundamentally anticompetitive insurance market.’’
“I do believe with some work and some compromise, we can get the 60 votes on the floor of the Senate, which we don’t have now,’’ Schumer said, Boston Globe reports.
It was also reported, the first proposal, by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, was rejected 15 to 8, as five Democrats joined all Republicans on the panel in voting no. The second proposal, by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, was defeated 13 to 10, with three Democrats voting no.
The votes vindicated the middle-of-the-road approach taken by the committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. Mr. Baucus voted against both proposals, which were offered as amendments to his bill to expand coverage and rein in health costs.
“There’s a lot to like about a public option,” Mr. Baucus said, but he asserted that the idea could not get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster on the Senate floor.
Proponents of a public plan said it was needed to compete with private insurers, and they said consumers would benefit from the competition, getting lower prices and better benefits, The New York Times reports.
Meanwhile, much now will depend on the president's leadership. October could be all about Obama, and whether he and his White House team can solve the remaining issues of cost, affordability and coverage to pass a health-care bill in the Senate and move it to a conference committee with the House.
White House officials and Senate leaders are frank in their assessment that they don't have the 60 votes necessary to pass a bill. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who sponsored a public option amendment that was defeated Tuesday, acknowledged that reality during deliberations.
The health-care debate has been marking time as the Finance Committee negotiates. House leaders are awaiting the Senate panel's decisions before combining various measures in a final package that will go to the floor, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has long insisted that the public option must be included in the House bill.
While some analysts have assumed that the Finance Committee bill will form the basis for a Senate measure, a few Democrats argue that, because neither bill could attract 60 votes, each must give ground on key issues, The Washington Post reports.