Yesterday, Senator John Rockefeller gave himself the pleasure of sticking it to Senator John Cornyn as very few Senators have had it stuck to them (nullus) in the Senate before. This was Senator Rockefeller’s response to an amendment offered by Senator Cornyn (which sought to add caveats to the employer mandate):
ROCKEFELLER: This is a very very important amendment, and it’s a very very bad amendment. If there’s anything which is clear, it’s that the insurance industry is not running this markup, but it is running certain people in this markup. [...]
CORNYN: With all due respect, senator, I don’t know what amendment you’re referring to —
ROCKEFELLER: I’m referring to yours.
CORNYN: — you’re certainly not referring to my amendment —
ROCKEFELLER: I am.
Today, he will introduce a public option amendment to the Baucus-cock-up health reform bill:
Democrats will step up their challenge to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s health-care-overhaul plan today, the opening salvo in a larger fight over the shape and scope of final legislation.
Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia will push for a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers…. While four other congressional panels have adopted that “public option,” Baucus, a Montana Democrat, has endorsed more limited health cooperatives instead in a bid to draw Republican support, antagonizing members of his own party.
“Tomorrow is the opening day in the big fight,” Schumer, a member of the Senate leadership, said last night in an interview. “It will be a big fight all the way down to the wire. The health-care bill that will be signed by the president will have a good, strong, robust public option.”
Schumer appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show last night (link forthcoming) and said that both he and Rockefeller would introduce one public option each. Rockefeller will propose a more robust public option, whereas Schumer will propose his “level-playing-field” public option. Schumer gamely defended the weaker amendment’s chance of passing, but realistically the Finance Committee is likely to balk at even that version.
However, on a conference call yesterday, Schumer and Rockefeller have promised at least a rollicking good fight today over the public option:
…the Senators assured reporters on the call that we’re all going to get a taste of their passion and persuasiveness on this issue at the ongoing Senate Finance Committee hearings on Friday.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Rockefeller said of the public option. “Chuck Schumer thinks it’s a great idea. And we’re going to be all over it tomorrow.”
Schumer said there will be a “full-blown debate” and that “even though the public option might be the underdog in the Senate Finance Committee, don’t count it out.”
Between the Rockefeller-Cornyn exchange, and a little tantrum directed by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl at Max Baucus (video here), yesterday’s Finance Committee meeting was entertaining enough. Schumer and Rockefeller seem to be promising even better stuff today.