In another step forward for health care reform, a key moderate Dem Senator says he will vote to bring the bill with a public option and an opt-out to the floor — getting the bill past a key procedural vote — and suggested his colleagues should do the same.
Senator Kent Conrad, in a phone interview with me just now, confirmed that he would cast a vote in favor of bringing Harry Reid’s health care bill to a debate.
"Sure," Conrad said when asked directly whether he would vote Yes on the initial procedural vote, which is a major obstacle because it requires 60 votes. "My position would be to have a debate, have amendments. Because unless you get a bill to the floor, you can’t legislate."
Conrad had not yet said outright he’d vote Yes on the procedural vote, saying earlier this week that he wanted more information before reaching a "judgment."
This is good news, even though Conrad is still making noises that he isn't comfortable with the public option. With his announcement today, it's looking more and more certain that a bill with the public option intact will reach the Senate floor.
Procedurally, having a public option reach the floor means that removing it will effectively take 60 votes. (As David Waldman explained to me, the hurdle would be set at 60 either by unanimous consent agreement or by the willingness of at least 41 senators to filibuster an amendment to strip the public option from the bill.)
As long as senators don't remove the public option from the bill (and there aren't 60 votes against the public option), the only way to stop the public option once it's on the floor will be to wage a successful filibuster against the entire bill -- and despite some loud bluffs, that isn't likely to happen.
Update (3:14): Evan Bayh, who had also expressed some reluctance to proceed, is also on board for bringing the bill to the floor.