By Sam Youngman - 08/18/09 10:13 AM EDT
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Senate and House Democrats who have been howling since Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on a Sunday news show that the public option is "not essential" should note that what she said is nothing new.
Even as Democrats and Republicans interpreted Sebelius's comments as a signal of compromise or retreat on the matter, Gibbs said there was no intent for Sebelius to float a trial balloon and what she said is consistent with what the White House and the president have said all along.
"If it was a signal, it was a dog whistle we started blowing three months ago, and it just got picked up," Gibbs said. "It's crazy. It's not a signal."
Gibbs said the president has not called any lawmakers concerned about the comments.
Gibbs reiterated that the president's preference to create competition and quality in health insurance is through a public option, but Obama is willing to listen to other ideas that would achieve the same outcome.