Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will have wide control over reconciling two versions of health care legislation in the Senate, told local constituents on Thursday that the final bill will include a public option for insurance coverage.
The remarks, first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal are destined to bring a wide smile to the faces of progressives who view the melding of health care legislation by leadership in the Senate -- and the subsequent melding between the Senate and the House versions -- as the best chance of ensuring the public option's passage.
Reid had been skeptical of getting a government-run plan through Congress in recent days -- though aides say that the provision remains his personal preference. And after the defeat of two public option amendments in the Senate Finance Committee it seemed that the policy proposal was all but pronounced dead.
But on Thursday Reid reportedly told a conference call of Nevadans that: "We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president's desk."
"I believe the public option is so vitally important to create a level playing field and prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of us," Reid added.
UPDATE: Reid's office clarifies his remarks in a statement sent over from an aide to the Senator.
"Sen. Reid believes that health insurance reform must include a mechanism to keep insurers honest, create competition and keep costs down," the statement reads. "He feels that the public option is the best way to do that. While we don't know exactly what that option will look like, Sen. Reid, working with President Obama, will ensure that whatever is included in the final bill does just that."
This seemed somewhat inevitable as Reid has largely resisted going out on a limb when it comes to the public option.