When asked if the public option was out, Bayh said, “Yes.”
It was a rare candid moment that saw an otherwise tightlipped cadre of Democrats leave the caucus room, one after the other, declining to speak to reporters. Those who did talk were coy on whether or not provisions championed by the more liberal wing of the party would remain in the package.
On Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who caucuses with Democrats, said that he would not vote for a bill that included a public health insurance option or a provision to allow seniors ages 55 to 64 to buy into the Medicare program. At least 10 more senators expressed concern on Monday—a number that would have sunk the bill, which needs all 60 Democrats to vote for it.
“I feel good about where we coming from,” Lieberman said after the meeting, adding that he's “encouraged by the direction” of talks.
“We didn't get all the details on it, but this is going to be a good bill and a winning bill,” Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.) said. When asked if he could support a bill that didn't have a public option or an early Medicare buy-in, Kirk said, “I'm not sure you're going to have either one out, but this bill is too good to fail.”
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), in a more formal news conference that followed, said that Senate Democrats would unite behind the bill.
“Having been here for years, it's always easier to envision the legislation you want than to pass the legislation you need,” he said. “And that certainly is true with healthcare.”
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