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Harkin feels heat from progressives over reconciliation
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is catching flak from progressive organizations for not coming out in support of passing a public insurance option through reconciliation.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) is urging its members to contact Harkin and demand he sign on to a plan to use reconciliation, a procedural move that bypasses the filibuster by only requiring 51 votes to pass a bill. The group, along with Democracy for Action and Credo Action, have managed to convince 30 senators to agree to support the effort.
“Jon Stewart lampooned Harkin last week for previously saying, ‘I’d say right now we have well over 55 votes for a public option, but we need 60′ — while now shrugging his shoulders and saying not even 50 exist,” Adam Green, PCCC co-founder, said in a statement. “Harkin also claimed on MSNBC that nobody has fought harder for the public option than him. I’ve been a longtime Harkin fan, but at this point, that claim is laughable. I can name at least 30 senators who have fought harder than Harkin, with more likely to come.”
In January, Harkin told a group of state Democrats he’d push through health care reform using reconciliation, but last month declined to join the effort to make that a reality.
Kate Cyrul, Harkin’s communications director, said that the senator appreciates the enthusiasm at the grassroots level for health reform, specifically pointing to PCCC’s work. He will continue to fight for a public option, she said, but it is not certain that it will be included in the final bill, a fact that Harkin believes shouldn’t derail final passage.
“As Speaker Pelosi and others have said, what is vitally important at this moment is that we actually pass a comprehensive bill this year that goes to the heart of the public option’s goal: adding increased consumer protections,”Cyrul said. “The Senate bill does this by including major insurance reforms to prohibit insurance companies from denying individuals coverage or charging higher premiums because of pre-existing condition. It also prohibits insurers from rescinding health coverage when an individual gets sick as a way of avoiding paying that person’s health care bills. And finally the bill does not allow insurance companies from placing lifetime limits on the dollar amounts of coverage.”
Green called Cyrul statement “a bunch of gibberish.”
“We’re asking a simple question: If the public option came up in reconciliation, could the 62 percent of Iowans who want a public option depend on Tom Harkin to vote yes?” he said. “Harkin’s refusal to say yes is flat-out weird.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last week if enough senators want to use reconciliation, he’d be willing to support it.