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Harry Reid Supports the Public Option


As the Gang of Six process falls apart, health-care reform is increasingly Sen. Harry Reid's problem. But until now, Reid has been pretty tight-lipped about his approach to the issue. On Tuesday, however, Reid (D) offered one of the first real glimpses we've had into his thinking.

Reid opened a private meeting of health care providers in Las Vegas on Tuesday by saying, according to one attendee who took notes: “We have a problem in America and it’s called the private insurance industry.”

Reid went on to express support for a public option, the proposed government-run insurance plan that he compared to Medicare, saying any meaningful reform legislation would have to include a public component.

Nevada’s main progressive group said the majority leader’s comments during Tuesday’s meeting of about 20 hospital CEOs, doctors and other health care providers was among the most significant statements they have heard on his thinking.

“We’re energized and we’re also confident that Sen. Reid is on the right side on this issue,” said Michael Ginsburg, a community organizer at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, who attended the meeting. “That’s something we can take to our supporters and reassure them.”

That should encourage progressives. It's also evidence that Reid is readying for a strategy — at least rhetorically — that relies on Democratic votes and an excited Democratic base, as opposed to one that downplays points of controversy and scales back the bill to attract a few Republicans.

Photo credit: By Susan Walsh — Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  August 28, 2009; 11:38 AM ET
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With all due respect, one of the biggest problems is Reid. He's been a terrible majority leader. Weak, spineless, rolling over for Bush again and again, failing repeatedly to deliver for Obama or take clear stands. Ted Kennedy (rest in peace) was a true fighter for what he believed in for 50 years whether he was alone or leading thousands. Reid is weak-willed oatmeal.

Posted by: mybandy | August 28, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

mybandy writes at 12:01 PM "Reid is weak-willed oatmeal."

Rightly or wrongly, that certainly is a broadly-held perception; nevertheless, Reid is the leader. I'm not certain he can at this point change perception of himself -- and trying might make things worse. Having said all that, what next?

Posted by: rmgregory | August 28, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

This is either posturing or a very bad idea. Strong support for a public plan MAY increase the probability that a public plan gets in a Senate bill. But it decreases the probability of meaningful reform.

Less than half the country supports reform at this point (per polls from Rasmussen, NBC, ABC, PPP, FOX, NPR) and Reid wants to go to the mat for one of the most contentious aspects of reform? Sounds like a losing proposition.

Posted by: mbp3 | August 28, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I doubt it is a matter of choice. Schumer, Brown, Sander, Leahy, Rockefeller, Boxer, Harkin, Gilbrand, etc.. probably threatened to walk without a public option.

If you are going reconcilation you need to public option. It is my understanding you would have trouble finding anything to benchmark the size of subsidize to since you would not have an exchange.

Posted by: JonWa | August 28, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Reid is at 37% in Nevada. If the Dems don't have the spine to dump him as leader (unlikely given the pass to traitor Lieberman) the voters will make the decision for them in 2010. I wish the weakling wouldn't cost the Dems a seat, but it just might be worth it to get his sorry butt out of there. 60 seats is turning out to be pretty useless with him as the so-called "leader."

Posted by: mybandy | August 28, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

More important is how Reid is polling in Nevada. Currently he is not doing well. By backing Public Plan, will it strengthen him or weaken? On the surface, with a large population of 'worker bees' in Nevada; it seems it makes political sense to go 'popular' and back Public Plan. But I can be wrong.

What we need is more information about each of the vulnerable Senator's election / polling dynamics and it's impact on Health Care Debate.

As Finegold is saying, it seems the final bill may not come for many months. So in that long cycle, polling impacts are important.

Posted by: umesh409 | August 28, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the guy sounds almost socialistic.


Posted by: leoklein | August 28, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Mmmmmmmm. green shoots for breakfast.
Eat them fast before they turn brown or the GOP pees all over them, again.

I'll believe his testosterone has rebounded when I see his boxing gloves come out again.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | August 28, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

ya this to me sounds like a last ditch attempt for Reid to maintain some standing to remain in office. All the Republicans would need is a "clean" fiscally conservative in Nevada to run against him and he could be in serious trouble. How would that look then to have the leader of the senate swept away in a midterm election.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 28, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Meh. I don't know. I'll believe Reid when i see him actually getting his 59 people in order.

Posted by: impikk | August 28, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Its so regrettable that in the moment in history when we most need giants in the Senate, we have a collection of weaklings, hacks cheaters and the occasional john.

Posted by: mybandy | August 28, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Can Reid bypass the Finance committee altogether? There's already the HELP bill (and one other?), right?

What restrictions does he having in going around Backus?

Posted by: TWAndrews | August 28, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"mybandy writes at 12:01 PM 'Reid is weak-willed oatmeal.'

Rightly or wrongly, that certainly is a broadly-held perception"

"I’m not very good at twisting arms." --Harry Reid

Even Harry shares the perception.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | August 28, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"That should encourage progressives."

Aren't you a progressive? Hm.

Perhaps you should encourage Reid to stand down lest he risk not passing a bill. That seems to be your forte.

We all know what a reckless, impassioned, radical leftist Harry Reid is. Talk some sense into him about the miserable prospects for a bill with a public option passing before it's too late.

Posted by: timmyfuller2 | August 28, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

No, The majority wants the public option. The other side makes no points and is armed to the brim with misinformation.

Posted by: drtodd1977 | August 28, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

That should encourage progressives. It's also evidence that Reid is readying for a strategy — at least rhetorically — that relies on Democratic votes and an excited Democratic base, as opposed to one that downplays points of controversy and scales back the bill to attract a few Republicans.

Or now that good o' l harry has totally screwed up health reform so that nothing can pass ... what he is ... or is not ... for doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot.

Posted by: cautious | August 29, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

But Ezra, what Harry Reid is proposing is exactly what Teddy Kennedy proposed in his Senate HELP bill:

A "public option" actually run by private insurance companies. It's the co-op concept.

Neither Reid NOR Kennedy supported legislation that included a true single payer or Medicare-for-All concept.

Their "public option" is run by private insurance companies contracted by the government.

Not even BTD @ TalkLeft clearly understands that. He misleads his readers without understanding what the HELP bill actually says.

Sometimes, so do you.

Posted by: auntmo9990 | August 29, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

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