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Harkin says he can’t support public option at risk of dooming reform bill
Even though he supports a public health insurance option being included in health care reform legislation, he would not vote for it in reconciliation if it could sink the entire bill, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said Monday during an interview on MSNBC.
Progressive host Ed Schultz asked Harkin point blank whether he would vote for the public option if it comes under reconciliation — a procedural move that bypasses the filibuster and only requires a majority vote.
“Look, Ed, you‘re talking to a guy who is for a single-payer system,” Harkin said. “And I‘m for a public option, always have been. But I know that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi said yesterday, I guess, on one of the talk shows, that it‘s off the table, simply because of the vote arrangement that we have to do. She has to count votes in the House side. So we‘ve got a deal with this very delicately.”
Harkin said if the Senate were to add a public option to the bill through reconciliation it could potentially “sink the whole bill.” He repeatedly stated his claim that if the public option’s inclusion doomed the bill, he would not vote for it.
“There‘s a lot of other stuff in there I care very deeply about — getting rid of all of these pre-existing conditions, insurance rescinding these things, covering 30 million people, giving tax credits to low income so they can buy insurance, getting more competition out there,” Harkin said. “These are very important things to have for our country, and so I have to weigh all of that. And if we have a bill sent to us from the House, a reconciliation bill that does not have the public option in there, then if we were to do that, if we were to add it here, that would sink the whole bill. And I don‘t want to sink this bill. I want to get this bill passed. I want it on Obama‘s desk and have him sign it.”
Harkin has been taking heat from progressive groups in recent days over his refusal to sign on to the plan to pass the public option through reconciliation. As of Monday, 30 senators have pledged to support the idea. A recent Research 2000 poll of Iowa voters found that 66 percent would favor using reconciliation to pass a health care reform bill, and 62 percent of Iowans favor health care reform with a public insurance option over the current Senate bill without it.
But the public option won’t be dead forever, Harkin said.
“I‘ll tell you this: If the public option is not in this bill — and it looks like it probably won‘t be because of the votes — that means we‘ll be back on it again, maybe even this year, maybe next year,” Harkin said. “But I‘m telling you, it‘s going to be coming back again and again and again. We are not giving up on it.”