Reid may compromise on public option

By Manu Raju
|  Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010  |  Updated 9:23 AM CDT
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Sen. Harry Reid could be open to a public option.

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SEARCHLIGHT, Nev.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled he's open to compromising on the government-run insurance option that is roiling the health care debate back in Washington.

Speaking to reporters near the home where he grew up in this rural mining town south of Las Vegas, Reid said that Finance Committee negotiations over a "trigger" for a public option are something "we're going to look at." This trigger concept has gained steam in recent days; under this proposal the government would only start offering health insurance if the private insurance industry did not meet certain benchmarks for covering the uninsured.

After speaking with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden about the president's much-anticipated addreds to Congress next week, Reid suggested that Democrats could live with a proposal "like" the so-called public option.

"We're going to do everything we can to do a public option or something like a public option," Reid said.
A day before, speaking to reporters at a labor rally in Las Vegas, Reid was asked whether he could vote for a bill without a public option.

Reid's response: "I support the public option."

The debate is creating a difficult balancing act for Reid, with liberals and Nevada's poweful labor unions strongly supportive of a public option. But there are signs that a public option could stall in the Senate and threaten the entire health care overhaul — and imperil Reid's reelection hopes.

Standing with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Reid told reporters Friday that he urged Obama to help dispel some of the myths over health care reform, including critcisms from Republicans that the bill would create "death panels" for the elderly and lead to more abortions.

"The president is going to do well," Reid said. "There's a lot of false information out there."

He added: "We also want to make sure that insurance companies are reined a bit. They have too much power."

Reid later told POLITICO that the chairmanship of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is Dodd's to have — if he wants to take the spot of the late Ted Kennedy.

"We've talked several times, and he's going to make that decision," Reid said. "Whatever he decides to do, I'll make sure he gets that."

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