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Burris Back In Spotlight Thanks To Health Care

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Oct 19, 2009 9:00PM

Remember U.S. Sen. Roland Burris? He was all the talk here, there, and everywhere in the first half of 2009 for all the wrong reasons. But now he finds himself in the Capitol Hill spotlight once more but this time for reasons actually pertaining to legislation. Burris is now making waves for his refusal to support any health care reform plan that doesn't include a public option. Why does this matter? Because if Burris sticks to his gun - and why not? He's not running for re-election and has nothing to lose - that could mean Senate Democrats won't have the 60 votes necessary (there are 58 Dems and two independents in the U.S. Senate, currently) to stop a Republican filibuster. The Associated Press says this in a profile (via Crain's):

No, he says, he will not vote for any version of a government-run plan circulating in the Senate, other than the full-blown one from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

He won't vote, for example, for Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe's idea to use the threat of a public option to force insurers to lower premiums by certain deadlines. He hasn't seen the details of another idea, proposed by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., that would allow each state to decide whether to offer public coverage to compete with private insurers. The health committee's proposal, he says, must be in the final bill to earn his vote.

"Yeah, that's the one," Burris said.

Some aren't necessarily phased by Burris' stubborn stance.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Burris' demand alone makes him no different than other senators seeking this or that in the bill.

"I will do what I can to address the thises and thats," Baucus said. "But my strong feeling is in the end, the need for health care reform is to get 60 votes (and) is going to trump the concerns that some might have."

Of course, we've still got a long way to go before whatever Frankensteined reform plan actually gets to the Senate for a vote and a lot can happen between now and then.