Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back aggressively in response to Sen. Richard Durbin's statement that he will work hard to pass a public option, should the House include it in a package of "fixes" for the upcoming health care reform reconciliation process.
In a statement to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a Durbin spokesman said Friday morning, "I want to be crystal-clear: Senator Durbin and the rest of the Senate leadership will be aggressively whipping for the public option, if it is included in the reconciliation bill the House sends over."
The PCCC has secured commitments from 41 Democratic senators to vote for a public option if it comes up for a vote in the reconciliation process. That would be far fewer votes than necessary for passage using any legislative process.
When asked during her weekly press conference Friday if she will include the public option in her legislation, Pelosi reminded reporters that she has always wanted to create a single-payer health care system. Short of that, she said she fought for and passed a public option when it came up for a vote last year. But Senate Democrats failed to include the public option, or government-run health insurer, in its bill, and President Obama never pushed to include it in either piece of legislation.
"I'm not having the Senate, which didn't have any of that in its bill, put that on our doorstep," Pelosi said. "We had it, we wanted it, they didn't have it. So it's not in the reconciliation. But it has nothing to do with whether we initiate it here. We did initiate it."
The speaker said that by including a government insurer in her original package, the bill was better designed to make health insurance more accessible and more affordable for Americans.
But, she added, "it isn't in there because the [Senate] doesn't have the votes. Otherwise it would have been in there to begin with."