Even Baucus on board for public option?

The Montana Democrat, who'd been very hesitant about the idea, appears to have come around

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 26, 2009 10:40PM (EDT)

Because of his position as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has been wielding quite a bit of power during the debate over healthcare reform. For a long time, he seemed to be using that power to keep a public option out of the bills being proposed -- if that wasn't his goal, he did at least prevent the idea from being included in the bill he and his committee wrote. But Baucus seems to be supporting the modified public option plan that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on Monday as part of his bill.

"For more than a year, we've been working to meet the goals of reducing the growth of health care costs, improving quality and efficiency and expanding coverage. There are a tremendous number of complicated issues that go into reform and the public option is certainly one of them," Baucus said in a statement released after Reid's press conference. "I included a public option in the health reform blueprint I released nearly one year ago, and continue to support any provision, including a public option, that will ensure choice and competition and get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate. Success should be our threshold and I am going to fight hard for the 60 votes we need to meet that goal this year."

Not all of the senators who've played prominent roles in working on reform legislation agreed with Baucus. Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, who in voting for Baucus' bill became the lone Republican to support any of the Democrats' legislation on the issue, said she was "deeply disappointed" that Reid chose to go with a public option that would allow states to opt out, rather than the "trigger" plan she favors.

"I am deeply disappointed with the Majority Leader’s decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation. I still believe that a fallback, safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate," Snowe said in a statement.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Max Baucus D-mont. Olympia J. Snowe