No momentum in Senate for Reid's public option plan

A day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he will put forward a health care bill that includes a government-run insurance plan, Sen. Joe Lieberman threw up a roadblock, promising to stop the legislation with the help of what could be 10 or more Democrats.

Lieberman told reporters on that he is opposed to the creation of a public option and will not back any bill that includes such a provision, even if it is created via a “trigger” or an “opt in” strategy.

“I don't support a government-operated health insurance agency that will end up costing tax payers a lot of money,” Lieberman said following a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting.

Reid announced Monday that he has sent to the Congressional Budget Office a bill that would create a government plan but would allow states to opt out of the benefits, if not the costs. The public option portion of the bill would be modeled after a version written in the Senate health committee, a Democratic aide said. It is the morel liberal of two bills Reid merged together.

While Reid seemed hopeful he could garner the 60 votes needed to move a bill to the floor and block a filibuster, some of the 58 Democrats have been unwilling to commit their vote. Lieberman, who like Vermont's Bernie Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democratic majority, said the number of Democrats who have problems with Reid's proposals “actually goes to double figures, at different levels of intensity.”

Moderates who filed out of a meeting with Reid were no closer to a “yes” vote.

“I'm skeptical about what Senator Reid has proposed,” Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said. “I have not been in favor of a government run option, but I am going to stay open to principled compromise.”

Another big question mark is Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. Nelson has not decided whether he will support the bill and has no plans to make up his mind until he actually reads the legislation.

The bill is in the hands of the CBO and few senators have read it.

“All of us are going to have to be patient here,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said.

Lieberman is not waiting for the fine print.

If Reid can't come up with 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster, he may have to turn to other options.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., is waiting in the wings with a plan that would create a national insurance program, operated by a nonprofit board, that would be put in place with a trigger but would also allow states to both opt in and opt out under certain circumstances. While such a bill would not get Lieberman's vote, it may attract the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who supports a trigger but opposes Reid's plan.

Carper declined to call it a trigger option.

“I call this the 60-vote option,” he said.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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