Can Health Care Pass With Public Option?

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on "Face the Nation,"
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on "Face the Nation," November 22, 2009.

New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said he believes Democrats can get the sixty votes needed to pass health care reform even if the final legislation includes the so-called public option on "Face the Nation" Sunday. Three moderate Democrats as well as independent senator Joe Lieberman (I- Conn.) have voiced their concern with voting for any bill containing the alternative government sponsored insurance plan.

"I believe we can," Schumer said of his party's ability to get their support.

He argued that the bill contains only a "modest public option" and the government plan will not knock out its competition. "It is a level playing field and then what we will say to the people from the more red conservative states, your state doesn't have to take it. But don't make it so that my state, which would like a public option can't take it. And the opt-out works. I think at the end of the day, everyone is going to agree."

Republican Jon Kyl said government cannot "be both a competitor and the umpire and you're not going to have the advantage...The government is the umpire."

"I've read good portions of this bill. The government makes decisions. I think there are over 3,000 times where in the legislation it says "shall". The secretary of health and human services has tremendous power under this legislation. As a result, a lot of people fear that when the government is both the competitor and the umpire obviously they win. The final point on the the public option. There are a lot of states where there aren't enough people either in terms of a risk pool or in terms of the network of physicians and hospitals to put together a lot of different competing plans. You don't help that by adding one more plan."

"What about this idea that it takes $100 million in federal funds channeled to one state. Should that be added to the cost of the health care bill?" Schieffer asked Kyl.

"You haven't heard republicans saying here is my price. That's the problem when you have to get 60. People in your caucus have severe reservations about the bill. In order to get every single vote sometimes you do resort to things that appeal to a particular senator or in the case of the house to a particular representative. The american people don't like that when they see it. It should be on the merits. When these senators, for example, say we'll vote to start the bill but that doesn't guarantee our vote at the end, the pressure at the end of the process is enormous. The real question ought to be are you willing representing the will of your constituents," Kyl said.

Kyl argued that several polls show the majority of Americans do not support the bill that will be debated on the Senate floor after last night's cloture vote.

"Let me say this first on the public option. First someone makes the rules but under our plan unlike what was feared before, the same rules apply to private insurance and to the public option. In other words, we say to private insurance, you have to have reserves in case you go bankrupt so your policy holders are still there. Same with the public option. We say that you cannot cut people off when they pay too much. You know, when their health care bills go up too much. Same at the other. So it's a level playing field public option. It is not... one does not have an advantage over the other. It creates good old-fashioned american competition," Schumer argued after saying the bill would not raise taxes.

"I think has the best of the health bill and the finance bill, and that's why I believe it's going to pass the senate with 60 votes, maybe 61. 62. Who knows?" he reasoned.

Kyl thinks differently. "If you have insurance you get taxed. If you don't have insurance you get taxed."