Mild-Mannered Merkley Turns Into a Tiger on Health Care

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A freshman senator is expected to defer to his seniors, make no waves, and rise to address the chamber only on such controversial topics as the virtues of motherhood and the flag.

But not Oregon's Jeff Merkley, who came across as a bit of a Milquetoast during his campaigns but has become one of the Senate's firebrands on the subject of health care reform.

Merkley's determined stand in support of a public option for health insurance has earned him praise even from former opponents such as "torridjoe" of the Loaded Orygun blog, who backed Steve Novick against Merkley in the primary.

Merkley "continues to be one of the more repetitively vocal members of the chamber when it comes to support for a robust public option," the blogger writes. "His insistence has not wavered throughout a long summer of angst-ridden tea-leaf reading over whether the PO would survive the deliberative process. His refusal to sit quietly on the back bench and let the seasoned pros handle things is enormously welcome, and a big poke in the ribs to doubters (like me) who thought the key word for Merkley's first term would be 'languid' rather than 'loud and liberal.'"

As evidence, Joe posts video clips of a couple of appearances Merkley made Wednesday on MSNBC's "The Ed Show" and on CNBC. The public option is "absolutely not dead," he told host Ed Schultz. "We have a public option that has come out of the [Senate] Health Committee [of which Merkley is a member]. We have every reason to include it in the final bill. The House wants to see it done, the American people want to see it done, and we're gonna keep pushing. Because if we don't take on the [health care] costs doubling every six years, we will not have fixed health care for American citizens."


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