Finance Committee votes on public option

FINANCE COMMITTEE VOTES ON PUBLIC OPTION…. The long-awaited Senate Finance Committee votes on a public option are underway this afternoon. Let’s take them one at a time.

The Rockefeller Amendment

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) proposed a robust public option, with funding tied to Medicare rates. The final vote was not close — every Republican on the panel voted against it, as did Democratic Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Tom Carper (Del.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), and Bill Nelson (Fla.). Of those, Carper’s opposition came as something of a surprise, as did Nelson’s vote.

The final vote, then, was eight to 15.

The Schumer Amendment

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was certainly on board with Rockefeller’s proposal, offered a different plan, generally called the “level playing field” approach to the public option, similar to what the Senate HELP Committee already passed. Under this proposal, instead of tying the public option’s rates to Medicare, HHS would negotiate with providers, just as private insurers do.

It’s a more modest approach to the public option, which, in theory, should be more appealing to less-progressive members. That vote is coming up shortly. I’ll update this post soon.

The committee just voted, and defeated Schumer’s measure, 10 to 13. Two Dems who voted against the Rockefeller Amendment — Bill Nelson and Tom Carper — switched to support this approach, but Baucus, Conrad, and Lincoln still voted with the GOP.

Baucus, the committee chairman, argued that he opposed the public option because it doesn’t have enough votes to pass. I have no idea what that means — it might have a better chance of passing if Baucus voted for it.

Conard said he opposed the public option because he prefers his still-undefined co-op idea, though he suggested the Schumer approach gets “much closer” to a bill that can get 60 votes.