Video: Pressure Mounts For Public Option in Senate; Harry Reid Targeted by Progressive Change Ad

New polling shows rising public support for a public insurance plan, as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee turns up the heat on Harry Reid with a TV ad.

As Senate negotiators continue to convene on crafting a final bill for health-care reform, support for a public health insurance plan seems to be gaining, the Washington Post reports, even among reluctant moderates. Perhaps the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, which shows majority public support for the public option -- as much as 76 percent, depending on the make-up of the program -- has lit a fire under the seats of lagging senators.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has yet to pledge his support for writing a public option into the final bill, which will combine the legislation passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the one passed last week in the Finance Committee. The HELP Committee bill features a public option, while the Finance bill does not.

At issue for Reid is the math of the Senate, where 60 votes are required to call off a promised Republican filibuster, a legislative maneuver that would prevent the final bill from coming to the Senate floor for a vote. The Democrats have exactly 60 seats in the Senate (if you include the two independents who caucus with the Democrats), but not all are on board -- and one, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virgina, may not be well enough to come to the Capitol to cast a vote. The margin for voting down a filibuster may be as small as three votes.

Progressives seem to be saying, regardless of the arithmetic, it's time to take a stand. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is currently raising money to run an ad in Nevada, Harry Reid's home state, where he faces a difficult election next year. The ad asks whether Reid is "strong enough" to stand on principle.

Other machinations on the public option continue as well in the Senate. Democrats want to increase payments to doctors who accept Medicare, codifying a fix that is usually made ad-hoc in other spending bills. This would allow those crafting the final bill to tie the costs of a public plan to Medicare reimbursements.

Republicans are mounting opposition to the Medicare tie-in as currently written, because it would involve deficit spending. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.,told the New York Times, "Republicans believe they can derail health care reform by defeating the doctor fix. That’s what this is all about."


Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington editor.
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