Schumer offers Reid a tip

SCHUMER OFFERS REID A TIP…. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), looking at the “very diverse group of senators” in his caucus, is still all about compromise. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), at least when it comes to health care reform, is recommending a different course of action.

One of the leading Senate Democrats in the health care reform battle said that the seating of Al Franken has given the party the purpose and direction it needs to ensure that a public option for insurance coverage remains in any bill.

“If you did a consensus within the Democratic Party, you would find the level-playing-field public option to be the answer,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “And now that we have 60 votes, it seems to me like we don’t have to turn it inside out for something we don’t like.”

Right. A 60-seat majority offers Democrats an enormous amount of leverage, should they decide to use it. As Greg Sargent noted, “It’s unclear why Dems would concede the possibility of failure in advance. Seems like it makes more sense to stake out a strong position, say you’re going to the mat for it, avoid conceding any ground, and make opponents grapple with how to deal with it, as Schumer is doing.”

Schumer added that his “bottom line” is a reform package that is “strong, national, and available to everyone on day one.” It’s language very much in line with the HCAN campaign.

As for the co-op favored by some centrist Dems and tolerated by Republicans, Schumer said, “I don’t think the co-op way can work. So let’s go back and do what we should be doing: a public option.”

As the debate began some months ago, there were a variety of Democratic senators who seemed poised to take a leadership role. It just never occurred to me that Chuck Schumer would step up like this.

Maybe he’s eyeing Reid’s job. Perhaps he’s thinking about running for governor. Maybe he’s thinking about his legacy, and wants to be remembered as the guy who delivered on health care.

Or perhaps Schumer saw an issue in need of some leadership, and stepped up because it was the right thing to do. Whatever his motivation, I’m glad to see him take on this role.