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Howard Dean, Stepping Back from the Ledge

On "Meet the Press" just now, Howard Dean took a few steps back from the ledge. He said that Harry Reid's manager's amendment improved the bill, by requiring insurance companies to spend more money on patient care and by restoring a little power to the independent Medicare commission.* And while he's still not happy with the Senate health care bill, he focused his remarks on the need to improve it conference committee, even opening the door (ever so slightly) to the possibility of supporting a bill with no public option.

My position is let’s see what they add to this bill and make it work. If they can make it work without a public option, I’m all ears. I don’t think that’s possible. … I hope this isn’t the compromise that’s been achieved. I think we have yet to see the compromise that we could achieve.

This strikes me as a far more sensible position, similar to the one Andy Stern took earlier in the week. The Senate bill isn't going to change while it's on the Senate floor. But it can change, at least a little bit, when it goes to conference committee. The way to make that happen is to talk up the House bill, which gets far too little respect in Washington, and to demand that the conference report reflect its influence.

*For more on what happened with the commission, read Karen Tumulty.