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Reid: Health Care Reform Not Complete Without Public Option

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised today the final health care bill will include a controversial public option insurance plan, contrary to recent indications by Democratic staffers that such provisions might be eliminated to make the reforms more palatable for moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats.

“We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president’s desk,” Reid said Thursday afternoon on a conference call with constituents.

But the Nevada Democrat, who is tasked with reconciling the competing Senate committee versions of the bill, yesterday told reporters the final bill would not be fashioned until the White House and leaders of the Finance and HELP committees had been consulted.

“Once that’s done, we’ll decide jointly as to what should be in that bill,” he said.

On Wednesday, the final bill hinges on consultation with Senate leadership and the President. Thursday, news surfaces that suggests Reid has consolidated the two Senate versions, and opted for the more progressive. There exists only two possible explanations. Harry Reid is either the single most productive member of Congress or he’s circumventing Democratic leaders—and the Ranking Republicans of the HELP and Finance committees—to advance his own agenda.

While Reid’s comments will likely embolden disaffected progressives, they promise to marginalize Democratic Senators Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu and Republican Senator Olympia Snowe.

Some Democratic leaders maintain there’s no “line in the sand” in the health care overhaul, signaling the potential for negotiations with Republicans. Still, Reid’s comments today represent the increasing vulnerability of Democrats to attacks from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for rejecting the public option.

Highlighting this vulnerability, Daily Kos Founder Markos Moulitsas wrote on Twitter today, “Blanche Lincoln will soon wonder why no one is riding to her rescue, or [cares] about her possibly losing.”

Moderate Democrats must fall in line like Speaker Reid or risk losing deep-pocketed progressive donors and online advocates like Moulitsas.

Cross-posted at Skepticians.com.

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