"Public Option" Supporters Keep Tabs on Congress

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
As congressmen prepare to wrap up their vacations and head back to Washington, liberal advocacy groups are keeping tabs of exactly which members are ready to support a government-sponsored health insurance plan, or "public option."

The groups OpenLeft.com and Health Care for America Now and Democracy for America (founded by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean) say they have 45 senators on record supporting the public option so far. They are raising money to pressure at least eight more senators currently on the fence to embrace the plan, the New York Times reports. Those senators include Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Jon Tester of Montana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Bill Nelson of Florida and Mark Warner of Virginia -- all Democrats.

Health Care for America Now is also working with Organizing for America (President Obama's political arm within the Democratic National Committee) to kick off rallies and a bus tour this week to mobilize support for health care reform. About 500 events are planned for around the country through labor day, the Associated Press reports, and the bus tour will go through cities like Phoenix, Albuquerque and Denver.

"We want to make sure members of Congress understand the last couple of weeks is not where the majority of the public is," Jacki Schechner, spokeswoman for Health Care for America Now, told the AP, referring to rowdy town hall meetings dominated by opponents of health care reform.

The liberal blog FireDogLake is also keeping a close eye on which congressmen support the public option and set up a campaign to "reward" those members financially specifically for their support. The site has raised nearly $400,000 and points out today that its liberal donors have given more money, in terms of candidate donations for the 2010 election cycle, than the health services and health insurance companies Wellpoint, DaVita, Humana, Fresenius Medical Care, and a number of other companies.

Today, Firedoglake sent its supporters a plea to urge local groups and committees to pass resolutions calling on congressmen to pledge to vote against any health care bill without a public option.

The liberal grassroots group MoveOn.org also launched a new campaign today asking supporters for photos of themselves holding signs showing why "we can't afford to wait" for health care reform.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care