Whitehouse: Obama Administration’s Been Quiet On New Public Option Push

Chaz Niell/ Southcreek Global/Newscom
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One of the nearly two dozen signatories to a letter urging that the Senate to pass a public option through the budget reconciliation process says the White House has been privately unresponsive to their efforts.

“We have not had any feedback that I’m aware of in response to the letter other than the fact that they put out their policy prescription without a public option in it,” said. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in response to a question from TPMDC.On Thursday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’ told Rachel Maddow that if Senate leadership moves forward on a public option, President Obama will “absolutely” fight for it. But nobody from the administration has reached out directly to the Senators leading the new public option effort.

Whitehouse seemed disappointed by the Obama administration’s reticence on the public option, but offered an explanation. “Under the circumstances, when they’re trying to draw the Senate bill together with the House bill, and looking at the difficulties of reconciliation–I think it would’ve been nice if it were in there, but I think that there are practical reasons for that, and I hope we can continue to work our way through those,” he said.

(The signatories of the letter believe reconciliation is an appropriate vehicle for the public option, and last year, Senate Democratic leaders concluded the same thing.)

Asked if he and other public option supporters would recruit more signatories to the letter, Whitehouse was non-committal. “It’s a matter of continuing interest,” he said. “Whether adding signatories to the letter is the means by which that interest gets expressed, I’m kind of open on that.”

Editor’s Note: This post has been revised since it was first published.

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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