Public option voted down, but not out

September 29, 2009 7:13:11 PM PDT
The health care debate took a strange twist Tuesday. Backers of a government-run so-called public option failed to get it through the Senate Finance Committee. Two public option amendments were voted down. The question that remains now: Is the public option dead?

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A month ago analysts were saying it was dead. Now after being voted down in a Senate committee, you would think it would be over, but it's not.

The Senate Finance Committee spent hours debating two amendments supporting the public option; one by Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia.

"Who comes first? The insurance companies or the American people?," said Sen. Rockefeller.

And another by Senator Charles Schumer, D-New York.

"Medicare is government-run and most people like it very much," said Sen. Schumer.

Republicans on the committee are opposed.

"I oppose the amendment because it's a slow walk toward government-controlled single-payer health care," said Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

But it was a failure to get enough Democratic support that killed them.

"I can count, and no one has been able to show me how we can count up to 60 votes with a public option in the bill," said Senator Max Baucus, D-Montana. "And thus I am constrained to vote against the amendment."

But the public option is not dead yet says ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain.

"The public option has gone from being something that was completely written off to something that clearly the progressive wing of the party has put back into play," said Cain.

In the past couple of weeks, we have seen political ads and Web videos and rallies calling for the public option.

"The costs escalating over the past 10 years, 15 years have certainly been in large part due to the insurance companies," said Allison Mulcahy, an emergency room doctor at Oakland's Highland Hospital.

The latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows 55 percent of Americans asked favor a public option. That's lLeading opponents on the Senate Finance Committee to fear it's coming back.

"We're afraid that no matter what the finance committee comes up with, when it goes to the floor, this bill will go to the left and then when it goes to conference it'll shift radically to the left," says Senator John Ensign, R-Nevada.

Tuesday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said once again a public option will be in the House version of the bill.

"Everybody wants to lower costs and that's a very strong option for a public option in the bill," she said.

The question remains, how much political capital is the president willing or able to spend in order to get the public option to the final bill. Tuesday was a setback, but not the end.

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