WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Democratic leaders met Thursday night with White House officials to consider including a government-funded public health insurance option, along with a provision allowing states to opt out of it, in a health care overhaul bill.
Two senior Democratic Senate sources told CNN that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is leaning toward a public option with the state opt-out provision in the Senate health care bill that will reach the full chamber in coming weeks.
According to one source familiar with the White House meeting, the matter was discussed with President Barack Obama but no decisions were made.
Republicans and some moderate Democrats oppose a public option, threatening the chances for a bill that includes the provision to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Senate filibuster.
The state opt-out provision is considered a possible way to get moderate Democrats to support a bill with a public option. However, the spokesman for Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a key moderate, said Nelson opposes the idea of a national public option with an opt-out for the states.
In addition, the idea is opposed by Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the only Republican to support any kind of health care proposal so far. Snowe's spokesman, John Gentzel, confirmed to CNN her opposition to the modified public option.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - There is candid frustration Thursday coming from rank and file congressional Democrats about the influence of Maine's Republican senator in the health care reform debate.
The way Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe sees it, she's just using the power any senator has: the power of one.
"The brilliance of our Founding Fathers was this: that they gave power equally to every member of the United States Senate, whether you represented a large state or a small state, and exercising that authority in a positive way," she said.
But the challenge now for Democrats is that Snowe opposes what most of them support: a government-sponsored health care option.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A key figure in the contentious health care debate called for more bipartisan compromise Wednesday, putting her at odds with a growing chorus of dissent from conservative and liberal activists.
Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the lone Republican on the Senate Finance Committee to vote for that panel's sweeping $829 billion proposal, said that a failure on the federal government's part to act soon would exacerbate a growing crisis.
Snowe's warning came as top Senate Democrats prepared to discuss ways to merge the Finance Committee's bill with legislation from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
(CNN) - Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe has served in Congress for more than 30 years, but in recent months, she's become one of the most-watched lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Her colleagues on both sides of the aisle have courted her vote and anxiously waited to see whether she'd cross party lines on the health care legislation moving through the Senate.
On Tuesday, the Maine senator became the only Republican to vote in support of the Senate Finance Committee's 10-year, $829 billion proposal to remake the nation's health care system.
The proposal was the product of months of negotiations between the "Gang of Six" committee members: three Democrats and three Republicans. The other Republicans involved in the negotiations, Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, voted no on the compromise measure.
"You know, I didn't consciously set out to be the only Republican, interestingly enough," Snowe told CNN's "American Morning" on Wednesday. "It all developed as part of the bipartisan group that the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. [Max] Baucus, had convened four months ago to build bipartisan support for a bill. And it turned out I was the one remaining, along with the Democrats."
Snowe said that just because she voted yes on the committee plan doesn't mean she'll do the same for the final legislation.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said Tuesday that she will vote for the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Democrats met Friday in hope of achieving consensus on one of the biggest sticking points in the health-care battle, the House majority leader predicted final legislation will include a "public option."
The question, Rep. Steny Hoyer told CNN, is what form it will be in. "We'll have to see how that legislative process goes. The public option is a priority for us, it's our objective, and we think that in some form, a public option will be available," he said on CNN's "American Morning."
In recent days, the White House has been speaking with moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the Finance Committee
negotiators, about her idea for a "trigger mechanism" that would bring a public option in the future if health-care legislation fails to meet thresholds for expanding coverage and reducing costs, Snowe told CNN on Wednesday.
Moderate Democrats who are uneasy with a public option, such as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, have said they could support a trigger mechanism. Such support could help a health-care bill gain the 60 Senate votes that would be necessary to overcome any filibuster attempt by Republicans.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A key Republican senator in health-care negotiations said Wednesday that President Barack Obama should drop his push for a government-run public insurance option.
Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said in an interview with CNN that deep divisions over a public option were holding back progress on crafting a bipartisan health-care bill.
Republicans unanimously oppose a public option, describing it as step toward a government takeover of health care. Democrats reject that claim, saying the public option would be one choice for consumers who could decide instead to select private coverage.
"People are rightly skeptical of a government-run health-care system, of the government interfering with medical decisions, so I would hope we can take it off the table," Snowe said of the public option.