If you’ve been patiently waiting for the president to show his hand and start openly pushing for the public option, your moment has come:
As questions swirl about the number of votes in the House for several versions of the public option, varying in strength, Deputy White House Secretary Bill Burton said that President Barack Obama is working on votes in the Senate.
“I will say that the President continues to think that the public option is the best way to achieve choice and competition, and that’s what he’s working towards,” Burton said during a gaggle on Air Force One this morning.
“We’re working on getting health care reform done, and in order to do that, obviously you’re going to need some votes in the United States Senate to move it forward, and that’s what we’re working on,” Burton added.
This is really the first time that anyone in the administration has admitted that they are pursuing a public option. It comes at a critical time. This morning, Nancy Pelosi called an emergency meeting of the Democratic caucus to gauge support for a ‘robust public option’ tied to Medicare reimbursement rates. It appears that she is close but not yet at the level of support she will need to pass the preferred plan. Part of the problem is that the Senate is progressing on getting 60 votes for cloture on a bill with a public option, but they are not going to be able to pass a ‘robust’ public option. House centrists are hedging, thinking that it is a risky prospect to vote for a bill that is more ‘liberal’ than what will eventually pass through Congress.
Pelosi wants the stronger bill to give her strength in her negotiations with the Senate. But, she is understandably meeting some rather fierce resistance. It’s not a coincidence that the White House chose this exact moment to announce that they are fighting for a public option in the Senate bill. They are also probably pushing back against a Politico report that Obama prefers to appease Olympia Snowe and go with a trigger.
I thought that the administration might wait to go all-in on a public option until after the Senate passed their bill. But it looks like they’ve decided that Congress needs a little push now in order to get the cloture votes in the Senate and, perhaps, the robust option in the House.