Senator Harkin: "There Will Be A Strong Public Option"

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is picking up the torch left by the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. Today at his 32nd Annual Steak Fry fundraiser in Indianola that featured Senator Al Franken of Minnesota as the keynote speaker, Senator Harkin certainly hit all the right notes when he declared a health care reform bill would pass both houses of Congress "by Christmas," and that it would include "a strong public option."

From the Iowa Independent:

At his 32nd annual Steak Fry fundraiser, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was cheered by an enthusiastic crowd when he declared that a health care reform bill would pass both houses of Congress "by Christmas," and that it would include a government-run, not-for-profit health insurance plan.

"Mark my word -- I'm the chairman -- it's going to have a strong public option," said Harkin, who last week replaced the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee.

"[It] now falls to me to pick up the torch" left by Kennedy, he noted.

Health care was a popular subject for all of the federal lawmakers assembled here Sunday.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, a member of the conservative Blue Dog caucus, received praise from his colleagues for standing up in a Democratic caucus meeting to declare his support for a public health insurance option. Other Blue Dogs have been reluctant to sign on to that component of President Barack Obama's proposal.

Boswell and fellow Democratic U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack also expressed optimism that a final bill would include measures to reform medicare reimbursement rates. Medicare currently pays doctors in rural states like Iowa less than what doctors in densely populated states receive for the same procedures.

The event's headliner, former comedian and newly-elected U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), noted that while health care remains excellent in the United States, the health care system is broken. He, too, expressed optimism that a public insurance option would be included in the final health care reform bill.

On par with the previous 31 Steak Fry events, the day was heavy on partisan zingers and red meat for the strongly Democratic audience.

"This is my kind of town hall," said Harkin at the beginning of his speech, as the crowd stood to cheer. Town hall forums across the country last month were tense and, at times, violent, as conservative activists targeted elected officials who supported health care reform.

Harkin also criticized Iowa's senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, who famously repeated the false claim that if Democratic reform measures pass, the government would euthanize the elderly. "Shame on anyone who repeats it," he said, avoiding direct mention of Grassley's name.

On the subject of Republican politicians, Franken said, "They run for office saying the government doesn't work. Then, they get elected, and they prove it."

During his keynote address, Senator Franken also spoke to the importance of this moment noting  that "this year we have a chance to confront the single biggest threat to America's future and the greatest unmet moral obligation in our history all rolled into one. That's what health care is. This is our opportunity".

It's an opportunity we cannot squander.

Tags: Public Option, Rep. Leonard Boswell, Senator Al Franken, Senator Tom Harkin, US Healthcare Reform (all tags)



public option

Obama hasn't given up on it either, and I actually expect the House to pass a public option.  Otherwise, there's no leverage to get anything more than Baucus/Conradcare.

Right now, I think the biggest obstacle in the Senate is Kent Conrad.  I still don't think there will be a public option in the end, but it's not quite as dead as the media (and Intrade) would have us believe.

by esconded 2009-09-13 07:55PM | 0 recs
Re: public option

The only way to get a public option is reconcilliation.  

by Kent 2009-09-13 09:33PM | 0 recs
Bingo! You've hit the nail on the head

especially after reading this latest little jewel: uid=20090913/4aadcdd0_3ca6_1552620090914 801533105

by suzieg 2009-09-14 12:41AM | 0 recs

Every House Blue Dog we can nab is a big get...

by Nathan Empsall 2009-09-13 08:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Senator Harkin:

Anyone know how soon we may be getting a Democratic appointment out of MA to replace Kennedy?

We really need it. I have a hard time believing the public option is dead, certainly Baucus and Conrad wish it were. What is up with Olympia Snowe. Her state is pretty blue. How is she getting away with her bad behavior?

by Lolis 2009-09-13 08:24PM | 0 recs
thanks for posting this

I got something up at Bleeding Heartland on the steak fry but fell asleep before I managed to cross-post here!

The Des Moines Register reported that Harkin joked,

"This is my kind of town-hall meeting," [...] because he didn't see any Republicans standing up to say, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

by desmoinesdem 2009-09-14 03:33AM | 0 recs
also, don't miss an entertaining liveblog

from this event by John Deeth, with lots of photos.

by desmoinesdem 2009-09-14 03:34AM | 0 recs
couple of other points on Harkin/public option

Last Thursday Harkin assured the Progressive Populist blog that 51 votes can be found in the Senate for a bill with a public option.

So what about all the hubub about the Blue Dogs and/or Progressives opting out if the bill doesn't meet their liking? Harkin said don't put too much stock in those statements.

"Look, around here people are always jockeying for power. That's all this is," Harkin said.

My big question is what will the "strong" public option look like, if Harkin is right that the final bill will have one.

According to one critic, the Senate HELP Committee bill's public option is anything but robust:

the actual provisions in the HELP Committee bill call for numerous "community health insurance options," not the single "Medicare-like" plan promised by "public option" advocates. That means the individual "options" will probably be as small and weak as the co-ops now under discussion in the Senate Finance Committee. More importantly, these "community options" will almost certainly be run by insurance companies.

The public option in the bill that cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee, HR 3200, is also weak in several respects.

by desmoinesdem 2009-09-14 03:36AM | 0 recs
Re: couple of other points on Harkin/public option

I'm not sure DiFi is one of the those 51 votes.

by esconded 2009-09-14 08:03AM | 0 recs
Get to work on your senators

See where your senator stands and get after them.

by jcullen 2009-09-14 09:17AM | 0 recs


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