[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/27/kennedy.senate.clout/art.kennedysenate.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Tom Harkin recently became the chair of key Senate committee led by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy until Kennedy fell ill with brain cancer. 'It now falls to me to pick up the torch,' Harkin said Sunday."]
INDIANOLA, Iowa (CNN) - Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who recently filled the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Sunday that a Senate health-care reform bill would include a "strong" public option and that it would get through by the holiday recess.
He also said it will have support from "some" Republicans, although he said he isn't sure how many.
"I'm ready to carry on [Kennedy's] work, and I'm ready to get a health reform bill passed and to President Obama before Christmas comes this December," Harkin said in a fiery push for health reform during a speech at his annual Steak Fry, a fundraiser for Iowa Democrats.
"That bill - mark my word, I'm the chairman - is going to have a strong public option," he added to thunderous applause.
In a media availability held just prior to his speech, Harkin said he believed the legislation would be able to garner enough support from both sides of the aisle - potentially enough to label it bipartisan when all is said and done.
"We will have some Republicans on our bill," Harkin said.
While reflecting on Kennedy, Harkin called him a "great friend" whose legacy will be tough to live up to.
"We lost a great progressive, a great leader on so many issues...It now falls to me to pick up the torch," Harkin said, adding that he is up to the challenge.
"No one can take Ted Kennedy's place, but I tell you this, I'm ready for this fight, (and) I'm ready to lead this committee."
The Harkin Steak Fry is one of Iowa Democrats' biggest fundraising events. This year's keynote speaker was recently sworn-in Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota.
In years when Democrats are running for president - or even exploring the option - a stop at the Steak Fry is a must.
The 2007 fest presented six presidential contenders on one stage: then-Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, alongside former Sen. John Edwards, Gov. Bill Richardson, and Sen. Chris Dodd.