Rockefeller: Public option not impossible

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Thursday restated his faith that he could successfully amend the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare bill to include a public option.

The committee will field debate on that proposal on Friday, but politicians and pundits alike have so far written Rockefeller’s efforts off as a lost cause.

"To me, nothing is impossible, and that particularly includes the public option," Rockefeller told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann on Thursday, repeating that a public option would "lower the cost of healthcare and raise the quality" of insurance coverage. "[That’s] what the public option is all about."

Rockefeller has emerged as one of the Senate’s leading proponents of the public option. While members of his own party begin to contemplate policy alternatives, and Republicans continue their assault against the so-called "government takeover," the West Virginia Democrat has made clear he will not vote for any bill — including Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) proposal — that does not include a robust government plan.

"There is no way in its present form that I will vote for it," Rockefeller said of the Finance Committee’s efforts during a conference call last week.

"I have sat beside Max Baucus for 22 years on the Finance Committee. I’m probably his best friend among Democrats on the Finance Committee, but I cannot agree to this bill," he added.

But early whip counts seem to indicate Rockefeller’s amendment will not survive a committee vote. Rockefeller has suggested otherwise, a position he repeated again during Thursday’s interview, adding that markup negotiations so far have yielded surprising results.

"One reason I think that is that near the end of today’s earlier session, we passed something 15-3, which everyone said wouldn’t never, ever pass [the Finance Committee]," Rockefeller said. "That’s something called MedPac, which takes away from [lawmakers and lobbyists] the right to set reimbursement rates for hospitals, doctors… and you know what, everybody went along with it."

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