As Democrat, Specter Aligns Himself with Schumer Health Care Compromise

By Gorman Gorman

Jun 12, 2009 4:37pm

ABC News' Elizabeth Gorman reports:

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., is warming up to the idea of a public plan for health care reform, a departure from his former days as a member of the GOP.

"I think Sen. Schumer has an idea which may accommodate all the interests in saying that there will be a public option, but it will be a level playing field," Specter said, using the same language Sen. Schumer (D-NY) did in his health care proposal to Congress last month. 

Schumer's health care proposal, considered a middle-of-the-road compromise by some Congressional Democrats, was designed to attract moderates like Specter, and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, two of three GOP members who voted for the President's stimulus bill last February. (Specter switched political parties two months later.)

"That's [Schumer's bill] on the table. And exactly how it will work remains to be seen, but I think it is worth considering," Specter said at the Forum on Medical Innovation held Friday at the Newseum. "[His plan] won't be subsidized by the federal government. And the private sector will not be at a disadvantage."

Former DNC chairman Dr. Howard Dean, who just released his book, "Prescription For Real Healthcare Reform," said he also supports Schumer's plan.

Specter told ABC News that unlike some GOP members, he didn't think the public option provision was a deal-breaker for getting new health care legislation passed.

"My judgment is it's going to happen, and it's going to happen this year," Specter said.

Specter's willingness to at least consider a public option plan might come as a surprise to those who saw Specter interviewed on Meet the Press in early May. The show's host David Gregory asked Specter whether he would support a public plan.

"No. . . . I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat," Specter said.

And when Gregory asked a second time to make sure he didn't support the public plan, Specter said: "That's what I said and what I meant."

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