Schumer Presses Reid on Public Option

By Lindsey Ellerson

Oct 14, 2009 11:03am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Anyone want to trade places with Sen. Harry Reid?

Just hours after the Senate Finance Committee approved a long-delayed health care bill, the Senate majority leader is facing intense pressure from liberals to include a “public option” the health care bill that comes to the Senate floor.

And one of the loudest calls is coming from a member of his own leadership team.

Sen. Charles Schumer, the third-ranking member of Senate Democratic leadership, made clear on MSNBC last night that inclusion of the public option is a decision that will fall to Reid. He laid out a strategy where the 60-vote threshold for movement in the Senate — something that’s stymied Democratic legislative efforts this year — would actually give Democrats an advantage.

“Leader Reid has the option of putting it in the final bill,” said Schumer, D-N.Y., per Talking Points Memo. “If he puts it in the final bill, in the combined bill, then you would need 60 votes to remove it. And there clearly are not 60 votes against the public option. And so we’re urging him to do that, and he’s seriously considering it.”

“It’s very important to see if a public option is in the bill that Leader Reid puts together,” Schumer continued. “He hasn’t yet made up his mind, but many of us who believe in the public option are urging him to do so, and so far we’re getting heard.”

His comments are being viewed as a rallying cry for progressives who are ratcheting up pressure on Reid, D-Nev., to include a public option in the bill he sends to the Senate floor.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee — a liberal group that’s been organizing and running ads to press for a public option — today is planning to deliver a petition with 90,000 signatures to Reid’s Senate office, demanding that he “lay down the law with conservative Democratic senators.”

Representatives of that group will be joined by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., something of a hero on the left in the wake of his controversial comment about Republican health care plans on the House floor. They want Reid to commit to stripping the committee chairmanships of any Democrats who support a GOP filibuster of health care reform.
Reid himself is facing what’s promising to be a difficult reelection race in 2010. UPDATE: The pressure isn’t being received all that well in Reid’s camp. A source close to Reid e-mails this response: “Perhaps Sen. Reid should consider giving Schumer the assignment to get 60 votes on the public plan of his choosing, since he says there is a groundswell of support for this idea.”

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