Durbin Vows to Push for Public Option — With an Asterisk

By Matt Loffman

Mar 12, 2010 10:54am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: As liberals hold out hope for a health care bill that includes a public option, a strong supporter of a public option, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, seemed to dash their hopes earlier this week by saying liberals need to "swallow hard" and realize the votes aren't there to make their wishes come true. But today, a spokesman for Durbin, D-Ill., issued a statement through progressive groups that are pushing for a public option: “I want to be crystal clear: Sen. Durbin and the rest of the Senate Leadership will be aggressively whipping FOR the public option if it is included in the reconciliation bill the House sends over,” the spokesman, Joe Shoemaker, said. “Conversely, the Leaders will whip against any attempt to alter or amend the bill if the public option is not in it.” Realistically, this doesn’t change the very long odds against the inclusion of a public option. House Democratic leaders are having trouble getting moderates on board without one; adding one back in through budget reconciliation would almost certainly hurt those vote-building efforts. But liberal groups are saying this puts the ball back in the court of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has offered outspoken support for the public option in the past: “The fate of the public option is now in Nancy Pelosi's hands. The votes and the leadership are there in the Senate, and the public option will live or die based on Nancy Pelosi's next moves. She's been a hero on this issue in the past, and we hope that she steps up at this historic moment,” three groups involved in lobbying for a public option — the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and Credo Action — said in a joint statement.
UPDATE: Pelosi today again shut the door on the inclusion of a public option, nothing that the votes proved not to be there to support one in the Senate. “It isn’t there because they don’t have the votes to have it in there,” said Pelosi, D-Calif. “We had it [in the House]. We wanted it. They didn’t want. It isn’t in reconciliation.”

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