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Bernie Sanders Pushes Back On Public Option

Ryan Grim

Senator-elect Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is interviewed by a Reuters reporter at Sanders' office in Burlington, Vermont November 28, 2006. (REUTERS/Brian Snyde)

conservative members of the Democratic caucus threaten to block passage
of health care reform if it includes a public health insurance option,
a growing chorus of liberal lawmakers are making similar threats if the
bill doesn't have one.

Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with
Democrats, said in a statement on Sunday that the bill must have a
strong public option to win his vote.

"I strongly suspect that there are a number of senators, including
myself, who would not support final passage without a strong public
option," he said. Not supporting final passage, however, is different
than vowing to filibuster it and prevent it from even getting to a vote
on final passage, as independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is now
doing, hoping to strip the public option.

But Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said on Saturday night that if the
bill bends toward the conservatives, "You'll lose people on the left."

One of those could be Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who said Saturday he'd
oppose any bill without a public option. "I won't vote for it," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Saturday night,
after the health care bill passed a major legislative hurdle by a
party-line, landslide 60-39 vote, that Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.),
Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) are working on crafting a
public option compromise that could garner 60 votes.

On Sunday, Schumer predicted that the public option would survive and wind up in the final bill that goes to the president's desk.

Sanders, who self-identifies as a democratic socialist, said that
democracy should triumph in the Senate. "The overwhelming majority of
Americans want to be able to choose between a strong public option and
a private insurance plan. Without that competition, there is very
little in this bill that would keep health insurance premiums from
escalating rapidly," Sanders said. "This legislation cannot simply be a
huge subsidy to private insurance companies that will get millions of
new customers and be able to raise their rates as high as they want."

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