Obama supports Senate efforts to find compromise on public insurance option

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he supports the effort by Senate Democrats to reach a compromise on the public option.

Obama said the Senate had made “critical progress with a creative new framework” that he believes would help pave the way for final passage.

“I support this effort, especially since it’s aimed at increasing choice and competition and lowering costs,” Obama said.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) late Tuesday announced that 10 centrist and liberal Democrats had reached a broad deal on healthcare. Their agreement would replace the public health insurance option in the Senate bill with a new system that would have the Office of Personnel Management negotiate insurance polices that would be administered by private firms.

Another part of the compromise would allow people between the ages of 55 and 64 who lack insurance to enter the Medicare program.

The compromise is aimed at winning the votes of the Senate’s 58 Democrats and two Independents, who both caucus with Democrats.  

It is unclear whether the effort will win the support of Senate liberals who want the public option, though liberal Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday evening suggested he could support the deal in order to move healthcare forward.

Some outside groups on Wednesday pressured liberal senators to oppose the new deal. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee called on Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Roland Burris (D-Ill.) to block the bill and demand that the Senate use budget reconciliation rules to move healthcare. Liberal groups support the use of those rules because it could mean that only 51 votes would be needed to dispense with procedural moves that would otherwise block the bill.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed questions about whether Obama would rather have a public option in the bill, dismissing them as hypothetical. "You're asking me if the president would rather he'd won the lottery," Gibbs said.

Asked if the president believed he did everything he could for the public option, Gibbs responded, "Yes."