After being pressed twice yesterday (once by USA Today‘s David Jackson, then again by ABC’s Jake Tapper) at yesterday’s press conference, President Obama declined to insist upon a public option. “[W]e are still early in this process,” Obama said, “so we have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured.”
There are a whole host of other issues where ultimately I may have a strong opinion, and I will express those to members of Congress as this is shaping up. It’s too early to say that. Right now I will say that our position is that a public plan makes sense.
Well, some key senators are saying that Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has already reached out to them–and not to express a “strong opinion” about the public option.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel met last night at the U.S. Capitol with Senate Democrats and told them Obama is “open to alternatives” to a new government insurance program in order to get legislation overhauling the health-care system to his desk, said Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
“His message was, it’s critical that you do this,” Conrad said.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana said Emanuel urged the senators to seek Republican support and didn’t discourage them from pursuing the use of non-profit cooperatives, an idea Conrad has proposed.
Conrad says that, unlike the public option, his co-op proposal can attract Republican support, but at this point the evidence suggests that it’s been a good tool for attracting conservative Democrat support and that Republicans remain broadly opposed to several aspects of the reform proposals on the table.