Hoyer Throws Cold Water on Public Option Resurrection

Posted February 23, 2010 at 11:23am

Updated: 1:16 p.m.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is throwing cold water on a liberal push to revive a public insurance option, pointing to its absence in a White House health care reform proposal as evidence the measure lacks support in the Senate.

“I think the public option can pass in the House, but it’s not in the president’s proposal,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday, noting he supported the provision as a money-saver in the House bill. “But I think that it is obviously an item the president has decided — he was for the public option, as well — decided is not something that perhaps the Senate can buy.”

The White House on Monday released a $950 billion draft health care proposal that merges elements of the packages that already cleared the House and Senate. It did not include the public insurance option, which was included in the House version but not in the Senate plan.

Outside liberal groups, meanwhile, have launched a campaign to find 51 Senators to vote for the public option, assuming Democrats in the chamber decide to pursue a bill through a budget maneuver that will only require a simple majority for passage. As of Tuesday morning, 23 Democratic Senators had reportedly pledged their support.

Hoyer declined to set a timeline for action on a health care bill, including on whether the House would move a bill in this five-week work period.

And the Majority Leader left the door open for a piecemeal approach if Democrats can’t find support for the comprehensive package they are still hoping to cobble together.

“We may not be able to do it all,” he said. “I hope we can do it all. If we can’t, then you know me, if you can’t do a whole, doing part is also good. There are a number of things I think we can agree on.”

The No. 2 Democratic leader said he believes public support for the substance of the Democratic reform drive is strong, even if Americans have been turned off by the process so far. “I think the American people have been distressed with what they see as a process that has for them been confusing and contentious,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a reflection of their conclusion that health care reform is not necessary.”