Did Burris Save the Public Option?

From Senate jester to prime-time player, how Sen. Roland Burris may have punked the Democrats.

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When Illinois Sen. Roland Burris took office almost a year ago, he already appeared to be a lame-duck politician.

After being appointed by the shady Gov. Rod Blagojevich in late December, Burris found himself shrouded in a haze of suspicion and controversy. With such a troubled introduction to national politics, it seemed as if “Blago’s boy” was little more than a political eunuch.

But the hard-knuckle Chicago politician seized his moment a few weeks ago when he proclaimed that he wouldn’t sign a health care bill that didn’t include a public option. With that, he not only propelled himself into prime time, landing spots on C-SPAN, MSNBC and Fox, but he also made himself relevant.

The landmark bill that passed the House on Saturday likely included a government-sponsored plan because of Burris. It now has to pass the Senate, which will be a challenge for the Democrats, who have no room for error in their quest for a 60-vote majority.

But if they can pull it off, Burris could emerge as the savior of the public option.