Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday affixed his name to a letter calling for senators to pass a public option for health insurance.

The vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus became the first leader to endorse the letter, which has been signed by 17 Senate Democrats.

Schumer sent an e-mail to supporters:

Dear ,

As you know, I've been committed to a strong public option throughout the entire health care reform process.

First it was in the Senate bill, then it was out. But now, thanks to the tenacity of a group of four Democratic Senators — Michael Bennet (CO), Sherrod Brown (OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and Jeff Merkley (OR) — there is a renewed push to create a public option as part of health care reform.

I just added my name to their effort to pass a public option through the reconciliation process, and I wanted you to be the first to know.

This is far from a done deal, but it's an opportunity to break through the obstructionism Republicans have pushed for the past year.

Let's keep fighting,

Chuck Schumer

Schumer's signature adds more momentum behind the push to reintroduce the public option to the healthcare reform effort stalled in the Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stripped the healthcare bill of the government-run healthcare plan late last year after he could not garner enough centrist support for a bill with it included.

But on Tuesday, Bennet penned a letter to Reid asking him to pass it using the budget reconciliation process under which the Senate would only need 51 votes.

Since then, 13 additional Democratic senators have signed the letter, originally backed by the four mentioned in Schumer's letter.

Reid and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have not said whether they will to move forward with the plan.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) Thursday acknowledged the effort, saying that the public option "could very well" be put back into the health reform package.

Over 100 House Democrats have signed a letter similar to the one circulating in the Senate.