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."
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."