Rockefeller: Public option still alive

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday stressed he still believes the public option is on the table -- even though, just hours earlier, the Senate Finance Committee defeated two amendments that would have provided for such a government plan.

Both Rockefeller and his committee colleague, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), presented their cases for a public option on Tuesday afternoon -- a debate that lasted more than five hours. But Rockefeller's amendment easily lost on a 8-15 vote, with five Democrats siding with a unified Republican front against the government plan. Schumer's less-aggressive effort fared slightly better, satisfying all but three Democrats, but was ultimately defeated by a vote of 10-15.

Still, Rockefeller insisted Tuesday evening that those close tallies merely illustrate the public option is far from dead. The debate is still shifting in the proposal's favor, he said, as more Americans and their lawmakers learn what a government plan has to offer.

"The big story coming out of today is that I got eight votes and Chuck Schumer got 10 votes. And, in effect, that's like getting most of [the Democrats] to vote for it," he told CNN.

However, Rockefeller would not commit to voting against the committee's healthcare effort if it failed to include a public option.

"Well, let's wait on that. I care very strongly about it, obviously," he said. "We have to negotiate with the Health Committee, Ted Kennedy's former committee. They have a public option in their bill. That's in the Senate. All the House committees have a public option in their bills. And so there's conferences, there's all kinds of things that happen between now and [then] -- at which I will either vote yes or no."