WASHINGTON (CNN) – As Democratic leaders in Congress appear to be converging on proposals for a public health insurance option that might win passage in each chamber, the comments of two Democratic senators Sunday suggested that a long fight is likely ahead in the Senate.
Conservative Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska told CNN's John King that he has not committed to lend his vote to aid Democrats in avoiding a filibuster of health care reform legislation.
"I've made no promise," Nelson said Sunday, adding that he can't decide whether he should help stop a filibuster until he sees the substance of the Senate bill being crafted by Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid.
Nelson also said that he does not support the latest proposal that Reid is considering - a national public health insurance option that would allow states to opt out. But Nelson said he might be able to support a public option where states are allowed, instead, to opt in.
"Look, I'm a Jeffersonian Democrat," Nelson told King, "I think states can make decisions on their own about their own citizens and so I certainly would look at that."
Nelson added that he didn't think he "could make any decision about anything until [he'd] seen everything."
Liberal Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio disagreed with Nelson and said a public health insurance option was necessary in order to help deal with the power insurance companies currently wield.
Brown rejected the idea of placing a trigger on the public health insurance option which would only kick in and provide the public alternative under certain market conditions.
"The trigger says let's give the health insurance companies another two years after they've had five decades since World War II to do things right," Brown said Sunday.
"We need the public option now," Brown added, "We need it in large part because it will inject competition into places where they don't have it."
Brown said he could support a version of the public option that includes a state opt-out.
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch came out against any form of a public health insurance option.
"You're going to have a fiasco on your hands," the Utah Republican warned referring to the prospect of a public health insurance option which could place additional financial burdens on states.
Late last week, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid began to lean toward including a version of the public option in the Senate bill that allows states to opt-out.
On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading House Democrats are considering a public health insurance option that would contain costs and extend coverage because it would reimburse at the same rates as Medicare. House Democratic leaders have also expressed some openness to a version of the public option that uses negotiated reimbursement rates much like private insurance.