Is The Real Problem For The Public Option In The House?

Congressional Quarterly/Newscom
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Progressives are doubling down on their push to have the Senate pass a public option via reconciliation. But are they underestimating the extent to which the House may be as much the problem as the Senate?

The House is currently shy of the votes needed to pass the Senate health care bill, and, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, they’re looking to make up the difference among public option foes in the Democratic caucus.

“I think the Senate bill, which is now the center of the President’s consideration, I think you had a lot of people who indicated they’d like the Senate bill better,” Hoyer said after an event at the Brookings Institution yesterday in response to a question from TPMDC. “It doesn’t have the public option that gave a number of people concern. But there’s still a way’s to go.”By the same token, on MSNBC last night, long time public option supporter Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) suggested that a Senate-passed public option could mess up the math in the House.

“If we have a bill sent to us from the House that does not have the public option here, if we were to add it here, it would sink the whole bill,” Harkin said.

Now, it’s worth noting that, just last week, Hoyer himself said he still thinks a public option can pass in the House–so clearly it’s a close call. But there does appear to be some doubt that the House can pass both a public option and the Senate health care bill. And perhaps that’s why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (once again) took it off the table this Sunday on CNN.

Currently, 30 Senate Democrats have indicated their support for passing a public option in an up or down vote via reconciliation. And last week, in a brief interview off the Senate floor, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said they speak for him as well. “I appreciate the fact that…other members here have expressed my feelings about the issue,” he said.

Meanwhile the pressure mounts to get from 30 (or 31) to 50. But are the progressives heading that effort barking up the wrong tree?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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