Pelosi Works the Inside Game for the Public Option

September 23, 2009 5:26 a.m.

A number of reports suggest House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has reversed a July deal she and Democratic health care leaders struck with Blue Dogs that weakened the public option.

But though that’s not accurate to the letter, it is indicative of a private fight Pelosi’s waging to keep a public option–preferably a strong one–in the final bill.The deal with the Blue Dogs was tactically crucial, allowing the House bill to pass by the slimmest of margins in the Energy and Commerce committee. But several weeks later, one of the parties to that deal, Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR)–chairman of the Blue Dogs’ health care task force–announced that he will vote against any bill that creates a public option, and it’s safe to say that the defection didn’t go unnoticed.

Aides caution that the final shape of the public option–whether it will use Medicare reimbursement rates, or whether those rates will be negotiated by the government–is still being decided. And Pelosi’s facing pressure from other Democratic leaders to be flexible on the question. But behind the scenes and in public, Pelosi continues to make the case that health care reform should include a public option, and that the public option should be more robust.

And according to Roll Call, she’d like the bill the House votes on to be completed and ready for a CBO score by the end of this week, ahead, she hopes, of a mid-October vote.

Pelosi has a tough needle to thread particularly given the Senate’s aversion to endorsing a public option. And though her public adamancy has softened, she’s clearly working the inside game.

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