Did Pelosi just ditch the public option?

The House Speaker seems to back away from a firm position she'd previously staked on the issue

Topics: Healthcare Reform, War Room, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,

Back in August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “There’s no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option. Unless someone comes up with a better idea, that’s how we’re going forth in the House.”

On Thursday, though, Pelosi appeared to back away from that position, dropping the part about not being able to pass a bill without a public option and inching towards supporting the deal that Senate Democrats worked out earlier this week.

“Well, what I said — it is a two-part statement that quotes what the President has said. We believe, we in the House believe that the public option is the best way to hold insurance companies honest — to keep them honest and also to increase competition. If there is a better way, put it on the table,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference, in response to a question about her August comments.

“As soon as we see something in writing from the Senate, we will be able to make a judgment about that. But our standards are that we have affordability for the middle class, security for our seniors, closing the donut hole and sustaining the solvency of Medicare. Responsibility to our children, so not one dime is added to the deficit. And accountability of insurance companies. We will take a measure of that bill in those regards.”

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These comments are being portrayed as Pelosi outright abandoning the public option. Clearly, she wasn’t quite that definitive. But she’s certainly leaving the door open to the Senate deal, and — especially given these remarks — it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see her come out in support of it fairly soon. If the agreement is the only way any bill passes the Senate, it’s not like she has much choice in the matter.

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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