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.
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."
House Democrats have been divided on whether or not they can accept the legislation without a public plan. The Senate passed its version of healthcare reform legislation on Christmas Eve that did not include the government-run plan. The House's version that passed in November did contain the plan favored by liberals.
Some House Democrats have said they would fight hard to include the public plan. House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) went so far as to say that lawmakers should scrap the bill and start over because the Senate version was so watered down.
But Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Sunday that House Democrats "understand the realities of the Senate."
House and Senate negotiators wiil convene next month to merge the two bills. Other sticking points include the House's stricter abortion language and the Senate's excise tax on high-cost insurance plans versus the House's surtax on high earners.