House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was mum today about her level of confidence in the White House's commitment to the public option going forward.
On a conference call with reporters and bloggers this afternoon, I asked Pelosi whether, given recent reports about the President Obama's reluctance to push for a public option in the Senate, she was confident he'd be supportive of the measure going forward.
Pelosi said she's been too busy to gauge the White House's commitment to the public option, but suggested that Obama may need to be a bit more persuaded of its political viability if he's going to throw his weight behind it.
"I guess I'm just so busy with what I'm doing that I'm not worrying about what somebody else is doing, and I have confidence in the President of the United States. He wants the strongest best possible bill that will work for the American people. And we have to convince him that what will pass in the Congress is something similar to what we have in the House," Pelosi said
Pelosi acknowledged that a more robust public option--one with payment rates tied to Medicare--was always a long shot in Congress.
"We knew the Senate was not going to that place if even Senator Kennedy was not going in that place," Pelosi said, referring to the fact that an early version of Senate legislation contained a public option with negotiated rates similar to the one she unveiled today.
But that's about as low as she's willing to go. "I don't see any way to go less than that, as good as it is."
At the White House today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs repeated a common administration theme--that the point of health care reform is to increase choice and competition.
The White House, Gibbs said, will "continue to look at the provisions and ensure that the provisions particularly around the public option are something that ensures something we have talked about a lot - choice and competition."
"[Y]ou can call it choice and competition, the point is not what you call it the point is the effect that it has," Gibbs added.
On that score, Pelosi has opinions of her own. She's largely changed the way she talks about the public option, redubbing it "the consumer option"--a term she used for the first time earlier this week, and repeated more than once on the call.