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Key Senators Say Dem Leadership Entertaining Idea Of Weak Public Option

Brian Beutler

WASHINGTON - In recent days, Senate Democratic leadership, and even the White
House have been sounding a bit more bullish on the public option than
they had in recent weeks. Majority Leader Harry Reid even went so far
as to say that 'some kind' of public option will be in the Senate bill
at the end of the day. But just how great a range of ideas is under
discussion at this point?

In a press conference this morning with other Democratic senators,
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) -- member of the Senate Finance Committee
and a supporter of a robust public option -- says it's a "broad

"The states are one way to go," she said

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who also sits on Finance and supports a
public option as enthusiastically as Stabenow does, added, "There are
state options that are devised in such a way that only a region of the
state is included, in which case that's not really a significant public

"If the whole state is included in a public option -- they have that
option -- well that's a much more significant standard than some that
have been proposed," Menendez told reporters.

Liberals and health care reformers--including Sen. Chuck Schumer
(D-NY) have intentionally spent months making it clear that state-based
plans don't meet muster. They say that the definition of a public
option implies that it's available as soon as the legislation takes
effect, that it's available nationally, and that it is accountable to

In the House of Representatives, for instance, the fight right now
is about how the public option will reimburse providers--not about its
extent or it's date of implementation.

Still, Menendez isn't ruling out a public option that matches the
reformers' criterion. "I think that Sen. Schumer's [level playing
field] provision...has a lot of appeal, and I would hope that we move
forward in that direction and maybe some further tweaks to it that
would make it more acceptable to others who have some concerns."

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