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Clyburn Won't Hold Out for a Public Option

December 28, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With health care reform heading into House-Senate negotiations, whether or not to include a public health insurance option remains the biggest unanswered question. The version of the bill passed by the House includes a public option, while the Senate bill does not.

The path of least resistance for the Democrats to get a bill signed into law is probably to leave the public option out. The Senate has already shown that they don’t have the 60 votes they need to break a filibuster of a bill with a public option. Now, Democratic leaders in the House are starting to lay the groundwork for passing a final public option-less health care bill through their chamber as well.

The Hill:

The House’s third-ranking Democrat said Sunday that he can support a healthcare reform bill without a public option.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) — a proponent of a government-run public plan — said that he could back the bill as long as it creates more choice and competition in the insurance industry and reduces costs. “It’s of no consequence” whether it’s done via the public option or not.

Asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if he could back a bill without the public plan, he said “Yes, sir, I can. Because why did we do — why do we want a public option? We want a public option to do basically three ten — things: create more choice for insurers, create more competition for insurance companies, and to contain costs.”

He continued, “If we can come up with a process by which three — these three things can be done, then I’m all for it; whether or not we label it a public option or not is of no consequence. What we want to do is get good, effective results from whatever we put in place.”

It should be noted that this isn’t a totally new position for Clyburn. Back in September, he was saying that House Dems should be prepared to compromise on the public option and floated the idea of temporary pilot programs. But Clyburn is one of the most influential House Democrats — his job as Majority Whip is to tell rank and file Dems how to vote — and having him basically say at this moment that the public option doesn’t matter is a strong indicator of how the House leadership is looking to proceed. It’s looking like supporters of the public option are going to be leaderless from here on out.

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