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A handful of freshman Senate Dems are working hard at making their mark this session. Meteor Blades wrote earlier today about how Jon Tester and Jeff Merkley are taking the lead in fighting back against anti-reform efforts in financial regulation. Now it's Merkley and two other freshmen, along with Sherrod Brown, pushing for comprehensive healthcare reform through reconciliation and with a public option.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) called on Reid to reintroduce the public option into the healthcare debate through the budget reconciliation process, which would short-circuit filibuster rules and allow Democrats to pass a bill with a simple majority in the Senate.

"Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the public’s perception of it," Bennet wrote to Reid in a letter cosigned by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

"The Senate has an obligation to reform our unworkable health insurance market -- both to reduce costs and to give consumers more choices," the senators added. "A strong public option is the best way to deliver on both of these goals, and we urge its consideration under reconciliation rules."

Bennet and Gillibrand are both in re-election races this year, so props to them for taking bold action when their political futures could be in doubt. Coupled with the news from earlier today that the Senate hasn't taken reconciliation off the table, this effort could gain some steam, if enough Senators are as brave as their new colleagues.

A coalition including Progressive Change Campaign Committee, DFA, and CREDO Action are helping whip this effort, asking for citizen signers here, where you can also read the full letter. As HuffPo's Sam Stein writes, the coalition has found strong support among Congressional progressives for the effort.

The petition is part of a larger effort by a coalition of progressive groups to rally Democratic lawmakers around the idea of passing a government run health insurance option through a parliamentary maneuver that would allow an up-or-down vote.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and Credo -- a socially-conscious business -- have already secured the signatures of 119 House Democratic lawmakers for the late-stage public option push. The progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org also has emailed constituents asking them to push their representatives to co-sign the petition....

The popularity of the idea, nevertheless, remains relatively high. As the letter to Reid notes, the most recent CBS/New York Times poll shows that the public option is supported by 59 percent of respondents and opposed by just 29 percent.

Passing reform that's actually popular would be a novel approach on this. The only way comprehensive reform can happen is through reconcilation in the Senate. Given that reality, making it as strong--and popular--as possible really only makes sense.

There's more in KingofSpades diary.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 01:34 PM PST.

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