The White House wants you to know: President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are on the same page when it comes to the public option.
Reid is trying to finalize a health reform bill that will get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, and he's reportedly weighing the inclusion of a public-option provision that would create a government-run health insurance plan but give individual states the ability to opt out.
The White House evidently wanted it known that this does not contradict its own stance on the public option--and to reinforce its denial of a report that it was seeking to weaken the public option--as Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer posted the following statement on the WhiteHouse.gov blog last night:
A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false.
In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President's position.
Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate. President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate.
As Pfeiffer says, President Obama has pushed for a public option all along, and Obama continues to support it. But that support has been flexible: while the White House has held a strong public option (not including an opt-out clause) as its favored position, Obama has never said it's a necessary condition for health reform. Reducing costs and expanding coverage are more important than how we get there, he's said.
But the White House has known that a strong public option may not be feasible in the Senate. So does Reid, and the latest "opt-out" proposal, while not the White House's ideal, signifies the closest thing to a strong public option that, it's been suggested, could gather enough votes to pass.