Jarrett: Obama not 'demanding' public option

President Barack Obama is not "demanding" lawmakers include a public option in their final healthcare bill, a top White House aide said Sunday.

“He’s not demanding that it’s in there, he thinks it’s the best possible choice,” White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett told NBC’s “Meet the Press." “He’s pushed for it, certainly, but he’s also realistic to say we’ve got to look at all options.”

The next few weeks are crucial for both the government plan and its staunch opponents. It is still unclear whether the group of Senate Democrats tasked with combining the chamber's healthcare bills will preserve the proposed public option -- which is already part of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's bill, but not the Senate Finance Committee's draft language.

While some Democrats fight among themselves about the provision's political feasibility and economic merits, other liberals have pined for the president to issue his personal thoughts on the measure's importance. But White House officials -- Jarrett included -- have only stated the administration's long-standing support for the idea; they have not posed the public option as an essential requirement for any reform bill that reaches the president's desk.

"As you saw the president say in the joint session to Congress, he believes a public plan, a public option is important to competition," Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel echoed in an interview with CNN earlier Sunday morning. "And so the president believes in it as a source of competition. He also believes that it's not the defining piece of health care."