Foreshadowing the likely legislative compromise on health care in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reportedly told a tele-town hall on Thursday that attaching a trigger to a public option for insurance coverage was "a pretty doggone good idea."
The remarks, reported by the local website, the Las Vegas Gleaner, were followed by the Nevada Democrat re-asserting his preference for a straight-up public option in the bill. A co-operative approach for insurance coverage - which has been suggested by some Democrats as an alternative to the public option - was Reid's least favorite choice.
"I think [the trigger] is better than this so-called co-op that they're talking about," Reid reportedly said. "My first choice is a public option, because I think it will create competition and make the insurance companies more honest. And my number two choice is the trigger, that is, that Snowe talked about. Number three is a co-op."
Reid's office did not dispute the accuracy of the remarks, though urged caution in interpreting it as an endorsement of the trigger - which has been championed by Sen. Olympia Snowe, (R-Maine) as a compromise approach. The Gleaner website tends to be critical of the majority leader, noted Reid's allies.
"Senator Reid strongly supports a public option," said his spokesman Jim Manley. "However, he is willing to look at anything that lowers costs and keeps insurance companies honest while providing competition and choice."
Reid, of course, is in the rather unenviable position of balancing the demands of the majority of his caucus - which favors the public plan - his personal preferences - again for a public option - and the reality of parliamentary procedure - which makes getting the public plan highly difficult. And so, throughout the health care reform process he has largely refused to draw lines in the sand around one set of policy proposals, often to the chagrin of the progressive base.
But his positive mentioning of the trigger option at this juncture does suggest where Reid sees the political debate heading. The Majority Leader, more than anyone else in the Senate, knows where the votes lie on health care reform broadly and the public plan in particular.