Yesterday, Ezra Klein interviewed Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, about his fresh idea of introducing a “co-op” health care plan as an alternative to the government-run plan favored by liberals. There are a few things in the interview worth noting: 1) Conrad says Democrats don’t have the votes to pass heath care legislation that includes a government plan, which supporters call the “public option” and 2) Conrad says that he doesn’t think they can pass health care legislation by using the process of reconciliation, which would theoretically enable Democrats to pass a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes.
But I want to focus on a passing comment Conrad made toward the end of the interview. Asked how his more liberal colleagues reacted to his proposal for an alternative to the public option, Conrad responded:
“I think it’s fair to say mixed. Those who really want public option because they really want single payer, this does not satisfy their position.”
Over the course of the ongoing health care debate, conservatives have been trying to point out that the so-called public option is merely a way for liberals to achieve a single-payer health care system over time. But liberals, at least publicly, have protested this characterization, and insisted that the public option was merely a plan that would offer more choice to consumers and (in President Obama’s words) “help keep the private sector honest.” Yet in this interview, Conrad, a high-ranking Democrat, openly admits that a good number of liberals who are touting the government plan are doing so because “they really want single payer…”