The public option has not been taken off the table in the nation's healthcare debate, President Barack Obama flatly declared Sunday.
Obama, appearing on the Spanish-language Univision's "Al Punto" program on Sunday, rejected the idea that he had abandoned the public (or "government-run") option for which he'd expressed much previous support.
"I absolutely do not believe that it's dead," Obama told Univision. "I think that it's something that we can still include as part of a comprehensive reform effort."
That defense may mark one of the most significant reactions Obama has had to date to the health bill unveiled by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) this week, which eschews the public option in favor of nonprofit healthcare cooperatives.
Baucus drafted that bill as a potential piece of compromise legislation to win over centrist Democrats and some Republicans who have expressed skepticism about establishing the public option.
For his part, Obama emphasized that he is not counting on Republicans to pass health reform, a signal that he may end up leaning on fellow Democrats only in order to achieve health reform this year.
"You know, I'd love to get Republican votes, but I don't count on them," Obama said. "And I'm confident that we're gonna get healthcare passed."
The president reiterated a sense that Republicans had made a conscious decision to avoid supporting any health bill for their own political benefit.
"I think, that the opposition has made a decision," he said. "They are just not going to support anything, for political reasons."
"Al Punto" was one of five stops the president made in his tour of the Sunday morning talk circuit this morning in order to make his case for health reform and other administration priorities. The Spanish-language public policy show was launched in 2007 on Univision, a network on which every American president and a number of political leaders have appeared since it was launched in 1981.