Public option effort could be revived if Democrats keep majorities, Clyburn says

Democrats could revive the public healthcare option if they maintain their majorities in Congress, the House Democrats' third-ranking member said Friday.

"Reelect me, keep Democrats on the field. And when we come back next year, maybe we will get to the public option," Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) said during an appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show

Clyburn has been traveling the country and making media appearances this week in an effort to drum up lagging voter enthusiasm on the Democratic side heading into the Nov. 2 midterms. 

The public healthcare option was a top prize for liberal activists during the nearly two-year long debate over healthcare reform, but it was scrapped from the final legislation after support for it fell short in the Senate. 

It's absence from the final bill led to consternation among many of those activists, some of whom blamed President Obama and Democratic leaders for not fighting hard enough to keep it in the legislation.

Disappointment over the public option and other issues, such as the military's policy against openly gay service members and the still-open Guantanamo Bay military prison, has been identified as a few of the main reasons for the Democrats' enthusiasm gap with Republican voters.

Clyburn acknowledged that, saying voters who are opposed to the Obama administration's top priorities are "a little more energized than the people who felt that we did not do enough."

But even if Democrats do retain their majorities, it could be even more difficult to pass the public option after this year since it's nearly certain their majorities will be smaller when the next Congress convenes in 2011. 

The South Carolina Democrat argued that a primary reason Democrats should get out and vote is to limit those losses.

"It's a tough climate out here, almost like after the [passage of] the 1964 Civil Rights Act," Clyburn said. "What we've got to do — what Democrats got to do — is get out here and let people know that ... we led a good foundation."

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