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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Less than a year ago, he was facing perjury charges in Illinois and an ethics investigation by his peers on Capitol Hill. Calls for his resignation were swift and came from Dick Durbin, his colleague from Illinois, and the president.

Burris, a longtime elected official who served as Illinois attorney general and comptroller, was quickly losing face and something far more critical: his political capital. In July, he announced that he wouldn’t run in the 2010 election.

Then, like manna sent from heaven, nearly every member of the Republican Party pledged to vote against health care reform, a central part of Obama’s domestic agenda. And Burris discovered that he did, indeed, possess political might.

The Democrats had all but backed off of the idea of a public option after members of the GOP and insurance industry lobbyists waged a full-on campaign of scare tactics and misinformation to neuter it.

They spent the summer trying to woo Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and moderate Republicans in the Senate to gain support for a bill they knew would more than likely pass the House.