Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, is a strong supporter of the public option in the health care bill that passed the House in November. But on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, he said he could also support a final bill that is more similar to the one that passed the Senate without the public option.
"I believe that both the House and Senate bills make tremendous contributions toward bending the cost curve," the congressman from South Carolina said. "I think they do a great deal to bring more people into the system. I think though that the House bringing the 36 million additional people, the Senate bringing 31 million additional people, I think that the more the merrier in this instance. So I do believe that the Senate has done a very good bill. But I think that the House has done a very good bill as well."
Host John Dickerson asked Clyburn point blank whether he could vote for a final health care bill that does not include the public option.
"Yes, sir, I can," Clyburn said. "Because why do we want a public option? We want a public option to do basically three things: create more choice for insurers; create more competition for insurance companies; and to contain costs. So if we can come up with a process by which these three things can be done, then I'm all for it. Whether or not we label it a public option or not is of no consequence. What we want to do is get good, effective results from whatever we put in place."
Many public option supporters have said that President Obama had let them down by showing support for the Senate bill which did not include it. But Clyburn said he didn't feel that way when Dickerson asked.
"If you may recall, I said way back before we went out on our August break that we ought to take a hard look at this so-called robust public option that a lot of people had bought into. I never quite bought into that. I was one of those people saying, we ought to come up with a hybrid. Part of which was to bring more people into Medicaid. And that's what we did on the House side. We did a blended plan. We didn't do what you might call a robust public option plan on the House side," he said.