Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) made some pretty interesting remarks at the Building the New Economy conference today. While the topic was manufacturing and industrial policy, Brown opened by talking about the current obsession in Washington, health care and the public option. He praised the “inside/outside” strategy of activism that eventually convinced Harry Reid to add the public option (with an opt-out clause for the states) into the bill. “We were pounding on the inside, the progressives in the Senate, and you all were writing and calling and engaging in activism from the outside, and that’s what made the difference.” Brown cited this strategy as a good one to use going forward on multiple other policy solutions. “We’re going to act like we won the election last year,” Brown said.
Talking about internal health care deliberations, Brown noted that an unnamed Senator from one of the Western states kept saying “I want a bipartisan bill,” but Chris Dodd would always counter, “I want a good bill.”
Brown did not comment on the likelihood of the public option staying in the bill given the resistance from members of the Democratic caucus like Joe Lieberman and Blanche Lincoln, but from his remarks one can assume that mass public pressure from the outside only bolsters his work from the inside to push for the strongest possible bill. Brown is one of the few progressive allies in the Senate, and he can only gain in influence from having a public mass of activism behind him.
UPDATE: Earlier today on MSNBC, Brown said that a few “dissenters” won’t stop the forward motion on health care reform. He said that he and Tom Harkin count 55 votes for the public option and that the five others in the Democratic caucus won’t join a Republican filibuster. He sounds more confident than I am.