Public Health Option Compromise? Feingold Cautiously Optimistic: ‘We’re Getting Closer’

I asked Sen. Russ Feingold today about his efforts to pull together a compromise on a public health insurance option.

During our exclusive “This Week” interview the senator told he’s “cautiously optimistic” and talks are “getting closer.”

When asked whether any compromise plan would be based on the health care coverage members of Congress have, Feingold said “there are a number of great ideas on the table … not limited to the idea you suggested.”

Here’s our exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a question also on health care. Senators in session this weekend, President Obama coming up this afternoon, and you've been reportedly part of a small group that is trying to work on a new compromise on this public health insurance option. It's based on the -- the plan that members of Congress have, the federal employee health benefits plan. Are you making progress? Do you believe a compromise can be struck? And what will it be?

FEINGOLD: Well, there are a number of great ideas on the table. We've gone from general conversations over the last few days to some very specific conversations that are not limited to the idea you suggested.

For me and for many others in this country, there has to be a public element to this. There has to be an approach that either creates a new public option or an expansion of current public programs. There can't just be a purely private approach. We have to have some competition for the insurance industry.

But the talks are exciting. They're getting closer. And I am cautiously optimistic that we're going to be able to pull everybody together and...


STEPHANOPOULOS: And get all 60 Senate Democrats together?

FEINGOLD: That's -- that's what we need to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- but is it -- is it based on this idea that you're going to expand the federal health employees...


FEINGOLD: That is only one idea that's on the table. It will not be one idea. It will be a package of ideas that reflects the different views of people in the room, the needs of the American people. So it is by no means limited to something like that, and that is not even definitely going to be it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Reach agreement today?

FEINGOLD: I hope so. We'll willing to work as long as we have to, to try to do it.

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