- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat said Sunday he would be willing to support health-care-reform legislation without a government-run “public option” insurance plan — a provision deemed vital by the administration and many Capitol Hill Democrats.

“I support a public option, but, yes, I am open” to a bill without it, said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We’ll see how this ends, but I don’t want the process to be filibustered to failure, which unfortunately, many (Republican) senators are trying to do,” he said. “I want to make sure that we do something positive for the American people.”

President Obama and most congressional Democrats say a public option would provide needed competition for the private insurance market, resulting in lower costs for consumers.

Republicans counter that a government-run plan would have an unfair advantage and drive private insurers out of business, resulting in millions of Americans losing their private care. This scenario, they add, would lead to an eventual government takeover of the nation’s health insurance system.

But Mr. Durbin acknowledged that even if the Senate passes a health-care-reform package without the controversial public-option provision, Democrats, who control both chambers of the Congress, still could insert the provision in a final compromise during negotiations between House and Senate versions of the bill.

“Just understand that, after we pass this bill — and I hope we do — in the Senate, it will go to conference committee,” he said. “We’ll have a chance to work out all of our differences.”

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