Well, this doesn't look good. Dick Durbin, in the name of bipartisanship says he'd be willing to accept a health care bill that does not include a public option. Isn't that special? And singing the praises of Max Baucus as he does it. Senator, it appears to me the only thing Max Baucus has been working on is lining his own coffers while these "negotiations" are going on.
John Amato says:
There is a lot of moving parts grinding along right now as the Senate finishes the Baucus bill and since there is no actual bill that we can see it's really hard to be definitive about what we're talking about, but if Obama wants to lose the left then he'll go ahead and take Cokie's advice and stiff the left and bow down to the minority party that's magically called the center by Villagers in DC. There are trial balloons floating around everywhere. Call Dick Durbin and let him know co-ops are unacceptable.
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KING: All right, Senator Durbin, the big issue on your side is whether there will be a public option, a government plan to compete with private plans in the health insurance spectrum. The chairman of the Budget Committee, Kent Conrad has raised doubts on this program, that votes were there. And he said this in The Washington Post on Thursday. "The hard reality is that a public option does not have enough support in the Senate to pass." You're the number two Democrat. Should your caucus be prepared for a health care bill that does not have a robust public option?
DURBIN: Well, I can't speak for the caucus, but I'll tell you, luckily there are three Republican senators and only three who are still negotiating with us. And we want to keep them negotiating.
Some of them are opposed to a public option. Some want a co-op approach to it. But we're determined -- despite the kind of pressure that they're under to stop negotiating and stop working on it, we're determined to get a bill to the floor. It doesn't have to be a perfect bill, but it should move forward through the amendment process.
And at the end of the day, we've got to -- have to make sure that we have health care reform that really helps middle-income families.
KING: If you're determined to get a bill that those three Republicans support -- and I assume you hope would go to Senator Cornyn and others and say, look, you might at least try to give this a good look -- then you're open to having a bill. Because Senator Grassley, Senator Enzi, and others have said they don't want a public option. If you want to keep them in the room, then, by extension, you are open to a bill without a public option -- fair?
DURBIN: I support a public option, but, yes, I am open. Just understand that, after we pass this bill -- and I hope we do -- in the Senate, it will go to conference committee. We'll have a chance to work out all of our differences. So we'll see how this ends, but I don't want the process to be filibustered to failure, which unfortunately, many senators are trying to do. I want to make sure that we do something positive for the American people.
KING: Well, Senator Cornyn, let me come in on that point, because Senator Enzi, Senator Grassley are trying to reach agreement on some sort of a co-op plan that they think would get health care especially to people in rural areas -- and your state has many of them -- without a strong government hand. Are you open to a co-op that has, maybe, a larger government role but not a full government option?
CORNYN: Well, I'm not for a government takeover using another name like "co-op," but so we have to see what the details are. But, you know, the problem is that there's a lot of middle ground where we can meet where it's insurance reform; it's realigning incentives to provide value rather than incentivize volume of procedures; providing continuity of care, medical homes and the like, which I think have a lot of hope out there to providing better quality of care at hopefully a lower price.
KING: Senator Durbin, the man leading those bipartisan negotiations you just talked about is the chairman of the Finance Committee, Max Baucus, and said this this past week, that he wants to keep going, but that, by mid-September, he'll have to make a decision of whether he can keep those Republicans on board. And he said this. "If Republicans aren't there, it could get to the point, where sometime after the recess, Democrats may have to go in a different direction. I hope not, but we have to face facts."
Facing facts would be going it alone with a Democratic bill. As you know, many of your own conservative Democrats think that's a bad idea, both from a policy standpoint and politically, to have one party trying to just shepherd and use its muscle to move through such a dramatic change to our health care and our economy, because of the role of health care in our economy.
DURBIN: I can just tell you, John, we need to take the time to get this right. But understand, Max Baucus has been working tirelessly for almost a year getting ready for this negotiation. For months, he's been in a room with these three Republicans. These senators are under intense pressure from the Senate Republican leadership and Senate Republican donors from Texas and across the country, and yet they've stayed the course, and I respect them so much for it. If it reaches the point where we cannot reach a bipartisan agreement, I don't want to see health care reform fail. We only get a chance once in a political lifetime to do something. We've got to make sure that, at the end of the day, we're going to come up with health care reform that really serves middle-income families across America.