Directly following the debate over Rockefeller’s robust public option amendment, the Senate Finance Committee next addressed Senator Chuck Schumer’s “level playing field” public option. The debate was much shorter and mainly repeated the same argues for or against Rockefeller’s amendment. Schumer’s public option amendment also failed, but by a smaller margin, 10-13
Again, all ten Republicans on the committee voted against the public option. Only three Democrats (Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln) joined them in opposing Schumer’s public option. Democrats (Jay Rockefeller, Jeff Bingaman, John Kerry, Ron Wyden, Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Maria Cantwell, Robert Menendez, Bill Nelson, Thomas Carper) cast votes in support of the amendment.
Most notable was that Senators Bill Nelson and Thomas Carper voted against the Rockefeller public option, but voted for the Schumer “level playing field” plan. Carper was not at the meeting to explain why he didn’t support Rockefeller’s public option but did support Schumer’s.
Bingaman and Baucus both stated that Schumer’s public option would be their preferred way to design a public option. Bingaman did vote for both public option amendments and Baucus voted against both. Baucus claimed that he supports the idea of a public option, and thinks that it would serve an important function in keeping health insurance companies honest. Baucus refused to vote for either amendment, however, because he claimed it would prevent his health care bill from garnering 60 votes in the full Senate.
Kent Conrad voted against Schumer’s amendments, but he did have some positive things to say about it in his remarks. The fact that Schumer’s public option would not be tied to Medicare payment rates addresses one of Conrad’s major concerns with a public option. He said Schumer’s public option was getting much closer to what he would like to see.
Once again senators Blanche Lincoln and Olympia Snowe did not speak about the issue of the public option. On arguably the most heated and important issue in health care reform, these two Senators didn’t feel any obligation to publicly explain their opposition.