Pelosi defends public option

As the administration moves away, the House speaker backs the idea, but doesn't rule out a bill without it

Published August 17, 2009 9:50PM (EDT)

As we explained in an earlier post, liberal Democrats in the House could pose a serious problem for the Obama administration, and for congressional leadership, if the public option isn't included in the final healthcare reform package. So it's no surprise to see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offering a pretty strong defense of the public option in the face of stories suggesting the White House is ready to let it drop.

"We agree with the President that a public option will keep insurance companies honest and increase competition," Pelosi said in a statement, which she began with a quote from President Obama. "There is strong support in the House for a public option. In the House, all three of our bills contain a public option, as does the bill from the Senate HELP Committee.

“A public option is the best option to lower costs, improve the quality of health care, ensure choice and expand coverage."

The statement involves a pretty neat two-step. Pelosi is showing her members she'll fight for the public option but at the same time she never says she'd oppose a bill that didn't include one, leaving herself -- and plenty of others, including those same members and the White House -- some room to maneuver.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Nancy Pelosi D-calif.