The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday voted down two amendments that included some form of a public option to healthcare reform legislation. Proposals by Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) were defeated by 15-8 and 13-10 margins, respectively.
Both defeats come just two weeks after Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the finance committee, released his own healthcare bill that did not include a new government insurance plan to compete with private insurers.
While Mr. Baucus and Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) voted against both public option proposals, Sens. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) voted against the first amendment, but supported the second. Schumer’s bill was the more conservative of the two, appealing to the Senate Finance Committee’s mostly old school membership.
Is the public option DOA with the finance committee? On the contrary, a more conservative government-run plan may actually fly but not get the votes of Republicans, who coincidentally, voted yesterday against both amendments.
Passage of a health care bill without including a government-run program will be seen as a failure to President Obama, even though his administration did not lobby strongly for a public option. It’s now in the hands of the Democratic majority in Congress.
Most Americans want to see a public option in health care reform legislation. Republicans however seemed to have voted against public option proposals primarily based on party politics rather than political ideology.
There is an upside however. Even though a public option failed to pass through the Senate Finance Committee, three healthcare reform bills in the House and one from the Senate Health Committee, already include some form of a government-run plan or public option. Let’s hope the American people get what they want.