Dems Commit to Health Bill, Some Push for Public Option

(AP)
Democrats will pass a health care bill, no matter what, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. With that in mind, some House progressives are pushing for a revival of the provision to create a government-run health insurance plan, or "public option."

When asked by reporters today whether it were possible Democrats could give up on their reform efforts, Pelosi said, "I don't see that as a possibility," CBS News Capitol Hill Producer John Nolen reports.

"We will have something," she said. "We will make every effort to have a health care bill... We will make progress, whatever it is, one way or another we will go forward."

In an interview with Politico today, Pelosi suggested Democrats could accomplish health care reform in a two-step process.

"We believe that it's possible to have comprehensive health care reform as we go forward, but at the same time, it can be on another track where some things can just be passed outside of that legislation, and we'll be doing both," she said.

While she reiterated that the House currently does not have enough support to pass the Senate bill in its current form, she said, "we're in range to make some improvements in it that will make it more affordable for the middle class, which is essential. Hold the insurance companies more accountable."

For that to happen, the House would have to pass the Senate bill in its current form, as well as a "fix it" bill. The "fix it" bill, as long as it only contained provisions that have a financial impact, could be passed in the Senate via a process called reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes to pass. Using this method would be crucial for Democrats, since they no longer have the 60 Senate votes necessary to block a Republican filibuster.

Now that Democrats are considering using reconciliation, some House progressives are pushing for the inclusion of the public option in the "fix it" bill. Including the public option, they argue, would convince enough House Democrats to vote in favor of the Senate bill - "fix it" plan.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

At a meeting of House Democrats Tuesday night, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) collected signatures for a letter advocating for the inclusion of the public option in the "fix it" bill, Huffington Post reports. The letter will be delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday.

"It is very likely that the public option could have passed the Senate, if brought up under majority-vote 'budget reconciliation' rules," the letter reportedly says. "While there were valid reasons stated for not using reconciliation before, especially given that some important provisions of health care reform wouldn't qualify under the reconciliation rules, those reasons no longer exist."

Polis told the Huffington Post that the response to the letter has been "very exciting."

President Obama is expected to reiterate his commitment to health care in his State of the Union address tonight. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said Mr. Obama will offer "additional details" about his health care goals, the Associated Press reports, but congressmen do not expect the president to give a specific plan for how to move forward.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), and outspoken advocate for comprehensive health care reform, said on CBSNews.com's Washington Unplugged that Mr. Obama would be the "ultimate game-changer" for health care reform and could significantly help its chance for survival if he showed more leadership on the issue.

Influential interest groups weighed in this week, urging Democrats to keep up their efforts.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to members of Congress Tuesday, urging them to "recommit themselves to enacting genuine health care reform."

"The health care debate, with all its political and ideological conflict, seems to have lost its central moral focus and policy priority, which is to ensure that affordable, quality, life-giving care is available to all," the letter said. "Now is not the time to abandon this task."

Meanwhile, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor union federation, said in an interview that the Senate should come up with a measure that the House can pass, the Associated Press reports.

"We fought too long and too hard for health care to quit for now," he said.

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