A Moderate Dem For The Public Option

By Chris Good

In this day and age, the public option seems long gone, but a group of 64 House Democrats have signed onto a letter calling for its revival. That such a group exists is not surprising in itself, but one of its members is: Rep. Scott Murphy (D-NY), a moderate Democrat from a traditionally conservative/moderate district in upstate New York, who came into Congress last year in a special election fraught with anti-AIG consternation and posed as a stimulus referendum.

Murphy actually voted against the House health care bill when it came up in November, though it wasn't because of the public option, according to a staffer: he liked parts of the bill, but felt it didn't do enough to reduce costs.

The new letter poses creating the public option though reconciliation (which only requires a simple majority) in the Senate as a trade-off that would get House Democrats to pass the Senate bill. The public option, considered out of the realm of possibility for some time--largely because there aren't 60 senators who support it--has consistently polled better on its own than health care bills in Congress.

Here's what Murphy said, e-mailed by his office, about his signing onto the letter:

"Our nation's health care system is broken.  To have real reform we need to ensure three things; accessibility, accountability, and affordability.  I support this letter because the public option would help achieve all three of these goals and help to keep costs down by giving the American public a competitive option to private insurers."

UPDATE: The letter, being led by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), now has 74 signers.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/01/a-moderate-dem-for-the-public-option/35034/