Pelosi: No Hope For Public Option At This Time

Congressional Quarterly/Newscom

The public option already died once. Today it died again.

House progressives have been trying to use the health care stalemate to revive the public option. Almost 100 have signed a letter urging Congressional leaders to include a public option in a separate bill, which could in theory pass the Senate with a simple majority of votes. If that happened–a big if–it could then be included as part of comprehensive legislation, securing progressives a major victory. But on a conference call today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put a second set of nails in the public option’s coffin, saying it would not be part of any grand bargain to push ahead with health reform. But in so doing, she took a veiled swipe at the White House for not standing enthusiastically behind the proposal.

“The Senate never supported the public option,” Pelosi said.

There was talk that there would be 51 votes for it, but it never passed on the floor of the Senate. It did pass in the House and, of course, I think it would be the way to go. But it isn’t the way that the Senate went. And so I think that what you might see coming out of some reconciliation would be those areas of agreement that all three–the White House, the Senate and the House–had already agreed to…more than two weeks ago.

That echoes more or less the sense that Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) had about the prospects for reviving the public option. But it’s unlikely to provide much comfort to the vast majority of House progressives who were hoping the popular provision might have a second shot.

“I myself think that I did a very heavy lift on the public option, very enthusiastically,” Pelosi said. “I believe in it and the rest. But it did not make the cut on the Senate side. As far as the White House’s enthusiasm for it, you’re just going to have to ask them.”


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