WASHINGTON (CNN) –Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Monday that he intends to move forward with a health care bill including a public insurance option allowing states to opt out.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has been melding legislation from the more conservative Senate Finance Committee and the more liberal Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The Health Committee included a form of the public option in its bill; the Finance Committee did not.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted the House of Representatives will pass a health care reform bill including a public option.
President Barack Obama has indicated his preference for legislation including a public option, but has not indicated he would a veto a bill without one. Several top Democrats have previously expressed concern that the traditionally conservative Senate would not pass a bill with a public option.
The public option is "not a silver bullet," but will ensure healthy competition and a more level playing field for consumers, Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. Public opinion polls show that a wide majority of Americans support a public option, he said.
Reid's health care bill, which will be given a cost assessment by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, also includes a provision from the Finance Committee bill allowing for the creation of non-profit health care cooperatives that would negotiate collective insurance coverage for members.
Reid hopes his compromise will appeal both to liberal senators insisting on a public option and to conservatives wary of a government-run plan, several Democratic sources said.
The sources told CNN that Reid does not yet have firm commitments for the compromise from 60 senators - the number required to break a Republican-led filibuster.
It is likely he would need that number for even a vote to begin Senate debate.
Reid's strategy of publicizing his intention is risky, multiple sources also said. A Reid aide told CNN Sunday, however, that the majority leader is cautiously optimistic, based on a series of conversations with Democratic senators, that he will ultimately find the votes.
"I believe we ... will have the support of my caucus," Reid said Monday.
An administration official went so far as to call Reid's move "dangerous," but quickly followed by saying Reid knows his caucus better than anyone, and will therefore have the support of the White House.