Reid opened a private meeting of health care providers in Las Vegas on Tuesday by saying, according to one attendee who took notes: “We have a problem in America and it’s called the private insurance industry.”
Reid went on to express support for a public option, the proposed government-run insurance plan that he compared to Medicare, saying any meaningful reform legislation would have to include a public component.
Nevada’s main progressive group said the majority leader’s comments during Tuesday’s meeting of about 20 hospital CEOs, doctors and other health care providers was among the most significant statements they have heard on his thinking.
“We’re energized and we’re also confident that Sen. Reid is on the right side on this issue,” said Michael Ginsburg, a community organizer at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, who attended the meeting. “That’s something we can take to our supporters and reassure them.”
Obviously, we're making progress. Still, we need to let him know that we'll support his move to do the difficult, but absolutely necessary, work to ensure that the bill that emerges for the Senate floor vote is a good bill.
But last month, Reid declined to say whether he would push for the public option during a press briefing in Washington where, as majority leader, he traditionally gives great deference to the committee chairmen as legislation is being formed, and often declines to influence their committee debates.
“It would be really premature for me to lay out for each of you what I think should be in this bill,” Reid said in July.
Reid also spoke Tuesday of the difficulty of getting the public plan component approved in the Senate, where he hopes to attract Republican support. With the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Reid has 59 senators in his caucus, not the supermajority of 60 often needed to pass significant legislation.
At both the Tuesday meeting and again during a Wednesday luncheon hosted by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Reid mentioned the possibility of using the procedure known as reconciliation to pass the health care bill in the Senate with just 51 votes. But he also noted the shortcomings of that approach, explaining to both groups that only part of the bill could be handled with reconciliation, leaving important elements behind.
We need a good bill with a strong public option. And yes, we need it ASAP. Hopefully now that he realizes that he needs progressive votes in order to win reelection next year, he'll continue voting more progressive and will no longer be afraid to act like a Democrat. Yes, that's really a good thing.
Go win one for the team, Harry, and we'll make sure you win next year! ;-)