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Weiner: House Will Fight for Public Option

(CBS)
As the Senate closes in on a health care bill that excludes the public option, House Democrats are gearing up for a final battle to save plans for a government-run insurance program.

"That's why you have a conference committee at the end of the day. I'm going to fight for the House position that included the public option," Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, said on CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday.

President Obama said Tuesday that Democrats were "on the precipice" passing health care reform. But Senate Democrats have been forced to ditch plans for a public option and its fallback, a Medicare buy-in program, to appease moderate members in their quest for 60 votes.

Last night, liberals were handed another defeat, as an amendment that would allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from other countries was defeated, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care Reform

Weiner cited three elements of the Senate bill that he considered "problematic": lack of a public option; restrictive language on abortion rights; and a health insurance tax he says will be "opposite of the incentives we want."

"The expression is a camel is a horse produced by committee. But when it's a Senate committee it's even worse," Weiner said.

And while Democrats "can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," Weiner said liberals are reaching the "tipping point."

As "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith noted, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said it was "time to kill the Senate bill and start over." Weiner said lawmakers in the House-Senate conference committee that will be charged with reconciling the two bills should reconsider the public option still included in the House version.

"You need to contain cost. You do that with a public option. The senate says 'We want to contain cost but we don't want the public option,' and their bill is more expensive than ours."

Weiner acknowledged that the Senate bill "certainly does a lot of things" to expand coverage to uninsured Americans and safeguard against insurance company abuses, but said it doesn't have "as much cost containment as we had wanted."

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