The Public Option for Congress

I was gonna tie this to my post earlier today about the healthcare bill, but it bears specialized treatment. A few weeks ago I suggested that members of Congress should use whatever public option they design. It wasn’t an original idea, but it is a good one. Yesterday, Sens. Coburn, Kennedy, and Dodd agreed.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, a doctor from Oklahoma, offered an amendment to the current healthcare bill being developed in the Senate that would require all members of Congress use the public option if passed. “Let’s demonstrate leadership—and confidence in the system—by requiring that every member of Congress go into it,” Coburn said. Surprisingly, the Senate Health Committee approved the amendment 12-11.

But don’t hold your breath. As John Fund points out today, this amendment is almost certainly going to get pulled out of the final bill.

Obviously, many members of Congress—who are used to a generous and flexible set of health benefits — have no intention of letting the Coburn mandate become law. They will undoubtedly try to strip it from the bill at some point, in a conference committee between the two houses if necessary. But for now it is embedded in the bill and any overt attempt to remove it would be met with howls of public outrage.

The votes by Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy that pushed it over the edge are probably political to make it seem like Congress at least considered this. Hopefully political pressure will keep them from pulling this out last minute, but my guess is that this will get pulled out in conference.