Hoyer: House Could Pass Health Bill Without Public Option

5967565Senate Democrats appear ready to capitulate to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and abandon a plan to allow middle-aged Americans to buy into Medicare -- and the House of Representatives could go along with that, a Democratic leader said today.

The Senate has already largely given up on including a government-run insurance plan (or "public option") in its version of health care legislation, even though a public option is in the House version. Senate Democrats had hoped to include the Medicare buy-in in its place.

According to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a health care bill without a public option -- or even a compromise plan including a Medicare buy-in -- could pass the House, CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson reports. Liberal members of the legislative body have been reticent to pass a bill without a public option or, at minimum, a compromise like the Medicare buy-in.

"My view is the guts of this bill, on both sides of the aisle, is the adding of some 30 million‑plus people to access to affordable, quality health care," Hoyer said. "That is the central impact of this bill."

He added, however, "We'll have to figure out what the Senate can pass, and then we'll have to look at it... In a world of alternatives, you've got to focus on what you can get."

Lieberman made clear on Sunday that he could not support the Senate Democrats' most recent proposal to drop a government-run health insurance option (or "public option") in favor of expanding Medicare. All 60 members of the Democratic caucus -- including Lieberman -- need to support the health care bill in order for it to pass in the Senate.

Too often, the "psychology of the Senate is the psychology of one," Hoyer said with respect to the latest news that Senate Democrats seem willing to give in to Lieberman's demands.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of the Senate's strongest public option proponents, said today on CBSNews.com's Washington Unplugged that he is "very disappointed" in Lieberman's position but that the Senate needs "to get to 60 votes."

"I don't really care who the 60 are," he added.

President Obama is meeting with all of the Senate Democrats this afternoon to discuss health care. The president's prestige is on the line in this debate, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller writes.

Meanwhile, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), a strong public option proponent in the House, called out the president for not doing enough to back the liberal agenda. He blasted Mr. Obama for allowing congressional leadership to heavily modify the health care reform bill based on the preferences of Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) or Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who asked for restrictions on abortion coverage.

"Snowe? Stupak? Lieberman? Who left these people in charge?" Weiner said in a statement. "It's time for the president to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the president to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate."

Hoyer commented today that the public option "is a positive addition to the bill, which... brought costs down, created competition and provided access to individuals. So we're for it."

"I'm not discussing the perfect; I'm discussing the possible," he said.

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