Public Option Excluded From Health Care Revisions
Republicans are forcing votes on a flurry of amendments to the revisions package to the health care bill. The amendments range from relevant to health care to politically motivated. One by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) would outlaw the pregnancy-preventing morning after pill. The other part of the measure would be difficult for any lawmaker to reject: prohibiting convicted pedophiles from purchasing Viagra. The move is tactical. Republicans could use it in a campaign ad that accuses Democrats of supporting Viagra for sex offenders.
Democrats are dismissing these measures as political traps. “Each amendment offered is to kill health reform,” said Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on the Senate floor. If any changes are made to the measure, it goes back to the House of Representatives. The House passed both the comprehensive health care reform and the so-called “fixes” bill Sunday night. The reform package was signed into law and the fixes bill must be passed by the Senate.
It is not only Republican amendments Democrats are denouncing, but their own party’s as well. One popular measure on the Democratic chopping block is the public option — a government run alternative to compete next to private insurance programs.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) supports the public option. He said it needs to be shelved for the time being because its acceptance would “neither get the public option nor the ultimate bill that we are seeking, which is health care reform.” Menendez said, “There will be other opportunities.”
Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in February asking that the public option be included in the so-called “fixes” bill. Senator Bennet has received the support of two dozen fellow signatories and the verbal support of a dozen more Senate Democrats.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote public option supporters and promised them a vote on the public option in “the coming months” if they dropped their demands for a vote during the reconciliation process.
It appears that Democrats have acquiesced and agree with the strategy
Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the public option would not be offered as a part of the reconciliation bill. “If a public option is offered as an amendment today, I will vote against it, even though I am for it because the greater good is getting the bill passed,” Harkin said.
Public interest groups and unions who were vocally opposed to health care reform with out a public option, are singing the same tune as Senate Democrats.
“This is not the time to reopen previous battles. We fought for many things, including the public insurance option, but to pass health care, we’ve all had to compromise,” said Chuck Loveless, with the American Federation of State County and Local Employees.
Under Senate rules, an unlimited number of amendments to alter the bill can be offered. How many Republicans offer could depend on how much stamina they have to vote continuously through the night. The Senate is expected to vote until the early morning hours.