U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has come under fire in the wake of House passage of health reform legislation for seeming to waffle on his commitment to the public health insurance option. It’s up to the Senate now to pass agreed-upon fixes to the bill by offering amendments. Bennet has made a splash in the last month by championing a plan to reinsert a public option into the bill and now would seem the time to do it. But Democratic lawmakers are wary of overreaching in the next week and opening up the process to complications that could foil their careful plan to reshape the bill.
Will Bennet live up to his word. If yes, how so? Now or later? Bennet is sending mixed signals.
Tuesday, Bennet sent out a fundraiser email saying he remained committed to the public option:
The most disappointing part of this bill for me is something that isn’t in it — a public option. With this first hurdle now behind us, I will continue to push for new legislation, such as a public option, that improves our health care system.
That won’t cheer progressives pressuring Bennet. Jane Hamsher on CNN last night criticized Bennet precisely for raising money as a champion of the public option and now seeming to backpedal.
“He raised money, he built his [donations] list,” she said. If Bennet doesn’t offer an amendment, “he’ll look like a hack who was only in it when he thought there was nothing he could do.”
Bennet spokespeople Adrianne Marsh and Craig Hughes said Bennet will not do anything to risk passage of the fixes. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Campaign Change Committee, which had strongly supported the Bennet action to reintroduce the public option, told the Denver Post his organization is OK with waiting for a later vote.
Hamsher says Bennet can introduce a public option amendment without jeopardizing reform because the main bill with many reforms has already passed, she said.
Meantime, Bennet is being pressed by primary challenger and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who is getting media attention by saying that if he were in the Senate, he would push now for the public option.