The Bennet Letter
by Charles Lemos, Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 06:21:39 PM EST
Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado today stood up for the American people and wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to bring the public insurance option back up for a vote and to pass it via the reconciliation process which requires only 51 votes. The Bennet letter was co-signed by Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
The four Senators, all Democrats, cite that they support a public option plan for four reasons: the cost savings the public option is estimated to achieve, continued public support for the public option, the need for increased competition in the insurance market and the Senate's history of using the reconciliation process for health care reform. The letter points out that the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare Advantage, and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) were all enacted under reconciliation.
"Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the public’s perception of it," the letter stated. "The Senate has an obligation to reform our unworkable health insurance market — both to reduce costs and to give consumers more choices. A strong public option is the best way to deliver on both of these goals, and we urge its consideration under reconciliation rules."
"Put simply, including a strong public option is one of the best, most fiscally responsible ways to reform our health insurance system," the letter says. "Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the public’s perception of it."
More from Politico:
Bennet took the lead in the Senate to round up co-signers for the letter, which was spearheaded by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and Credo Action. A similar effort in the House netted 119 signers to a letter.
The senators have made the calculation that the public option is popular with Democrats, and the absence of one in the final bill is one reason that voters are unenthusiastic about it.
When the public option was still on the table, proponents in the Senate thought a majority of the Democratic caucus would vote it, making the inclusion of one in a bill passed through reconciliation a mathematical possibility.
The letter was spearheaded by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), Democracy for America, and Credo Action. Late today they issued a joint statement:
"This is a historic moment in the fight to give Americans the choice of a public option and senators Bennet, Gillibrand, Merkley, and Brown deserve immense praise for their leadership. Every day, it becomes increasingly clear that the best way to 'fix' the original Senate bill is to pass the highly popular public option through reconciliation. It's the populist reform that the House will need to pass both bills together and the key change Democratic and Independent voters will need in order to believe in health care reform again and show up in 2010."