Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Harkin: Public option is likely dead
In an interview with Salon.com, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said there is little hope of passing a public health insurance option in 2010.
The senator, who chairs the powerful Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, will participate Thursday in a health care summit organized by President Barack Obama. The president’s health care proposal, released earlier this week, does not include a public option.
“I hate to say it, but I am not certain we’re going to be able to get a public option in this bill,” Harkin said with a sigh, in an interview on the eve of President Obama’s bipartisan health care summit. That phrasing may sound relatively optimistic, but the way Harkin discussed the public option made it clear he didn’t see much hope for the plan for now. “That doesn’t mean we stop trying… I keep reminding people that this bill is not written in stone, like the Ten Commandments, for ever and ever. This is a law, it’s a bill, we change laws all the time around here — that’s what we do.”
Progressive groups have been hoping Harkin would sign on to a letter written by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., which demands Democratic leadership push through a public health insurance option through reconciliation, a procedural move that precludes filibusters and requires less votes to pass a bill. Harkin has refused to publicly back the effort, although he told a group of state Democrats last month he favored using reconciliation to pass certain aspects of health care reform, including a public option.
A recent poll commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for Action and Credo Action, three groups pushing for the use of reconciliation, found 62 percent of Iowans favor health care reform with a public insurance option over the current Senate bill without it.
UPDATE: Charles Chamberlain, political director of Democracy for America, issued the following statement to The Iowa Independent in response to Harkin’s interview with Salon.com.
As Jon Stewart rightly lampooned last night, Tom Harkin previously said, “I’d say right now we have well over 55 votes for a public option, but we need 60.” Harkin also said nobody has fought harder for the public option than him.
Well, only 50 votes are needed now. Unless Tom Harkin is willing to name names, say who supported the public option before but opposes it now, and actively challenge his colleagues to re-take the same positions they had just weeks ago, than Tom Harkin is putting his relationships with DC politicians ahead of the will of the 62 percent of Iowans who want a public option. We hope Harkin decides to start fighting.