I had a pretty spirited go around with White House Press Secretary Roberts Gibbs and the latest on this dilemma over the public option. The bottom line: Gibbs says the President will make the case for a public option in his speech to Congress on Wednesday but he won't issue a veto threat if it isn't in the final package.
Gibbs also said the White House is willing to draft its own health care legislation. Here's our exchange:
GEORGE: "There has been some talk about whether the President will draft legislation is that what’s happening now?"
GIBBS: “Well look, We have been looking a legislation for months. You have now several different proposals in the House and Senate that have made the way to the committee process. Obviously the Senate Finance Committee continues to work, so you are going to have ideas coming from a couple different directions and the president has take all those stands and pull them together.”
GEORGE: "But he will do that and then put his ideas on the table?"
GIBBS: "Well, we're going to certainly..People will leave that speech knowing where [Obama] stands and if it takes whatever to get health care done the president is ready willing and able to go do that. We are closer George than we have ever been before.”
On public option:
STEPHANOPOULOS: "[Obama] wants a public option, but… "
GIBBS: "And he still does."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "But — he wants it, but will he sign a bill that doesn't include it? Because it can't get through the Senate."
GIBBS: "Well, we're not going to prejudge what the process will be when we sign a bill, which the president expects to do this year. The president strongly believes that we have to have an option like this to provide choice and competition, to provide a check on insurance companies, because without it, again, we're going to have markets as big as a whole state of Alabama, almost 90 percent of which is dominated by one insurance company."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "The president, from what I can hear, is going to make the case for the public health-insurance option — for a form of the public health-insurance option — on Wednesday, but he is not going to say: If you don't bring me one, I veto the bill."
GIBBS: "I doubt we're going to get into heavy veto threats on Wednesday. We're going to talk about what we can do, because we're so close to getting it done. He will talk about the public option, and why he believes, and continues to believe, that it is a valuable component of providing choice and competition, that helps individuals and small business, at the same time provides a check on insurance companies, so they don't dominate the market."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "Even though he knows that means he is not going to get Republicans on the bill?"
GIBBS: "Well, we haven't closed the door on Republicans that are ready, able, and willing to work with the president to try to provide a solution for this."
Watch Full exchange HERE.