What's Conrad's position on the public option?

The North Dakota Democrat reportedly said he'd vote against the idea, but that's not the case

Published August 14, 2009 11:30PM (EDT)

There was some excitement on the Internet Friday evening because of a report that Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., told a roomful of his constituents Thursday that he won't vote for a bill with a public option.

If true, that story -- originally published by the Jamestown Sun, a local paper -- would be a big deal. First of all, that's one less Democratic vote for healthcare reform, and with a filibuster almost certainly on the horizon, supporters need all the votes they can get, and would have to pick up a Republican to make up for Conrad's defection. Second, the senator has been the driving force behind a co-op plan as an alternative to the public option, but has thus far explained his position as arising from a sense that the public option simply can't get 60 votes -- this would be a pretty dramatic shift.

Turns out, though, that it's not true. The Sun's story never quoted Conrad directly about the public option, and the senator's communications director, Sean Neary, told Salon that the story was inaccurate. Conrad has been telling his constituents that he won't let the government run their health care, which may be the cause of the confusion, but that language doesn't preclude the public option.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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Healthcare Reform Kent Conrad War Room