Burris Hinges Support for Health Reform on Public Option

Created: October 19, 2009 16:38 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) has been nothing if not a reliable vote for Democratic leaders since his controversial appointment last December by disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). But that’s threatening to change. In an eyebrow-raising interview with The Associated Press over the weekend, Burris reiterated an earlier vow to stake his support for the Democrats’ health reform legislation on whether or not the proposal contains a strong, immediate public option to compete with private insurers.

“I would not support a bill that does not have a public option,” Burris, 72, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “That position will not change.”

Those words caught the attention of the very Democratic leaders who tried to keep Burris out of the Senate, suggested he resign and have shunned him in unprecedented fashion. Burris is not the only Democrat to insist on creation of a government-run health plan. But he is the one who has the least to lose by defying President Barack Obama and the Democrats who once turned him out in the cold rain.

What’s notable here is that, unlike some other public option supporters in the Democratic caucus, Burris says he won’t support any of the compromise proposals floating around the Senate. He wouldn’t, for example, vote for a public plan triggered by certain conditions a few years down the road, the AP reports. Instead he wants the robust government-backed plan contained in the bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee earlier in the year. Not even HELP Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is insisting on that.