30 senators sign letter backing public option

A number of Democrats ask for Harry Reid's help in getting a public option passed


Alex Koppelman
October 9, 2009 12:20AM (UTC)

In the past, it's been House Democrats who've been most vocal in supporting the public option. Now, Senate Democrats are getting on the bandwagon.

30 Democratic senators (really, 29 Democrats and one independent who caucuses with them, Vermont's Bernie Sanders) joined together on Thursday to send a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in which they ask him "for your leadership on ensuring that the merged health reform bill contains a public insurance option."

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"We recognize that the two Committees with jurisdiction over health reform – the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee – have taken two very different approaches with respect to this issue," the letter says. "However, a strong public option has resounding support among Senate Democrats – every Democrat on HELP, three quarters of those on Finance, and what we believe is a majority of the caucus."

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was responsible for circulating the letter, according to his office. Among the signatories were Sens. John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller, Patrick Leahy, Arlen Specter, Russ Feingold, Debbie Stabenow, Barbara Boxer and Bob Casey, Jr.

Brown's office says that another 14 senators "at least have expressed support for the public option through a resolution, letter, or by voting for a strong public option during committee markups."

Put together, though, that still only represents 44 senators, seven short of a majority and 16 short of the magic number needed to defeat a filibuster. It doesn't seem like it would be difficult for Democrats to get the 51 votes together, but holding all 60 members of their caucus together will be tougher.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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