Sebelius: 'Nothing has changed' on W.H. public option stance

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusFighting for assisted living facilities The chaotic fight for ObamaCare California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’ MORE on Tuesday said that "nothing has changed" regarding the Obama administration backing of the public health insurance option. Yesterday, the White House took a lashing from liberals after Sebelius and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Sunday that the public option was non-essential.

"Here's the bottom line. Absolutely nothing has changed. We continue to support the public option that will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice and keep private insurers honest," Sebelius said in a speech today.

"The public option is a very good way to do this," she added.

The former Kansas governor, however, did not take a dogmatic position, saying that the primary goal was to ensure competition and consumer choice.

"If people have other ideas about how to accomplish these goals, we'll look at those too," she said.

Sebelius' comments represent the second round of the White House's push-back against charges that they were abandoning the public option. Influential Congressional Democrats stood strongly behind the public option yesterday after Gibbs and Sebelius' initial statements.

Sebelius echoed comments made yesterday by Gibbs during his press gaggle aboard Air Force One. "I got to tell you, this is one of the more curious things I've ever seen in my life," Gibbs told reporters as the president flew back to Washington from a Western trip.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said "leaving private insurance companies the job of controlling the costs of healthcare is like making a pyromaniac the fire chief," and insisted the president would lose 100 votes in the House if the public option was removed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also issued a statement backing the public option on Monday but did not reference the Obama administration's comments specifically.

At least one liberal House member was heartened by Sebelius' backing of the public option today.

"White House clarified that it has NOT abandonned (sic) the Public Option. Great! Send thanks to WH and HHS Sec. Sebelius for real reform," tweeted Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

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