The big news this afternoon was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) abandoning his previous promise to offer an amendment to the Senate health care bill adding a public option into the bill. This amendment would need only 51 votes, as the public option reduces the deficit (by a lot) and therefore is in order for reconciliation. Sanders announcement that he is backing down to the Senate Democratic leadership and White House aides who cut a deal with hospital/drug lobbyists to kill the public option seemed to suggest the public option is dead. That is, until Colorado Senate Democratic candidate Andrew Romanoff tonight just issued a statement that will put significant pressure on his primary opponent, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), to offer the amendment instead:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Romanoff: Where's the 'Public Option' Champion?
After learning today that no member of the United States Senate would stand up for a "public option" in health care reform, U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff issued the following statement:
"As Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, I led the fight against insurance companies that unreasonably delay or deny their customers' valid claims. I know first-hand the lengths that industry will go to resist reform.
"I am deeply disappointed to learn that no member of the U.S. Senate is willing to offer an amendment to restore the public option to the health care bill.
"Millions of Americans cannot afford to keep up with the soaring costs of health insurance. That is why a majority of the American people support a public option. The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that a public option will reduce the deficit.
"I call on the leadership of the U.S. Senate to allow an up-or-down vote on the public option. We should not allow the insurance industry to kill the competition the American public wants."
Bennet has spent the last month and a half touting his letter demanding a public option - and getting a lot of press for that move (deservedly so, IMHO). But now, thanks to Romanoff's demand, he will have to put up or shut up. If he refuses to offer the amendment, he shows his past efforts to be kabuki theater - grandstanding for attention while refusing to actually take the steps necessary to do what he publicly claims he wants to do.
Bennet, as this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show proves, has shown a willingness to respond to primary pressure on the public option - and he may be even more willing to respond to that pressure considering he just lost the Colorado Democratic caucuses this week.
Oh, and how many other Senate Democratic primary challengers across the country are going to start issuing similar statements against Senate Democratic incumbents?
Stay tuned - this is going to get interesting. Romanoff will be on my AM760 radio show to discuss this on Monday. Tune in here from 7-10am every weekday.