Harkin says ’strong public option’ will pass by Christmas

From Raw Story:

In striking contrast to comments made this weekend by GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe, Tom Harkin (D-IA), the new chairman of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, declared Sunday that a public option will pass.

“Mark my word — I’m the chairman — it’s going to have a strong public option,” Harkin said at an Iowa fundraiser, adding that it would pass “by Christmas.” Harkin replaced Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) as the committee’s chair upon Kennedy’s passing.

“[It] now falls to me to pick up the torch,” he added. Harkin’s remarks were picked up by the Iowa Independent.

Harkin was speaking at his annual Steak Fry fundraiser in Indianola, Iowa.

The Iowa senator’s comments, however, come at variance with comments made by the Republican “swing vote” on the Senate Finance Committee, which is crafting the Senate health legislation. On Sunday, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said she’d told President Barack Obama to scrap the public option.

“It’s universally opposed by all Republicans in the Senate, and therefore there’s no way to pass a plan that includes the public option,” Snowe quipped. “So, I think it’s recognizing that, because it is a roadblock to building the kind of consensus that we need. Even [Senate Finance Committee] Chairman [Max] Baucus has indicated, no proposal could be passed in the Senate that includes it. So, it would be best to just move forward.”

Harkin spoke to a cheering, enthusiastic crowd, telling audience members, “This is my kind of town hall,” according to the Independent, and criticizing fellow Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who recently repeated comments made by ex-Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin about so-called “death panels.”

”Shame on anyone who repeats it,” Harkin reportedly said.


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