Talking Points Memo

Specter: Schumer Has It Right On The Public Option

Talking Points Memo — Thursday, June 25, 2009

Editor's Note: This transcript was released by the White House on March 5, 2009.

By Brian Beutler

Speaking moments ago to a large and animated crowd of union organizers and health reform advocates in a brewing house just North of the Capitol, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) said he supports a public insurance option.

"Schumer has it right about having a public component," Specter said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has taken a lead role on negotiations over the public option in the Senate Finance Committee, and earlier this year proposed a compromise: the committee's health care bill should include a public plan, he said, but one that competes on a level playing field with other insurers. Such an entity wouldn't be able to use its sheer size to set prices the way Medicare does--but it could nonetheless incur savings in a host of other ways, and in so doing drive down the cost of health insurance in the private market.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the Schumer proposal is in line with the principles of the major reform campaign Health Care for America Now--and, as such, just about every major health care and labor organization in the country.

Before Specter switched parties this spring--and for a brief period afterward--he said he did not support the public option. But as a Democrat he's facing different pressures — notably from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) who plans to challenge Specter in next year's primary — and he's begun tacking to the left as a result.

HCAN hosted today's event, which also included rallying, lobbying, and other town halls with members of Congress. The Pennsylvania forum — which also featured a Sestak appearance — was a standing-room only affair. Both the ground floor and the balcony levels of the Capitol City Brewing Company were filled seemingly beyond capacity, with many guests forced to sit on the staircase or stand in the nearby entryway to the National Postal Museum.

"Health care is a right," Specter said. "Your presence here has a big effect. You will get health care this year."

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