Pelosi renews support for public option

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) renewed her support for a public insurance option on Thursday, one day after a key Senate chairman introduced legislation without one.

"I fully support a public option. A public option will be in the bill when it passes the House of Representatives," Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

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In the past week, Pelosi had appeared to be walking back from her commitment to a public plan, instead echoing President Barack Obama's remark that such a government-run plan is "only a means to that end," referring to reducing costs. The day after Obama’s joint address to Congress, Pelosi agreed, saying, "this is about a goal. It's not about provisions."

But on Thursday, she criticized the proposal put forward by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) for not having a public option. She also said the House plan is "stronger on security for seniors."

"We hope we can persuade them to our point of view," Pelosi said. "Unless we hold insurance companies accountable, it will be very hard to extend access to those who have pre-existing conditions and other reforms."

Still, she shrugged when asked if her view of a public option included non-governmental, not-for-profit “co-ops, or if she could accept a “trigger” in the bill that would create the public option at a later date if other ideas, such as the co-ops, fail. The former is included in the Finance Committee bill, and the latter has been under discussion.

Her renewed support will not come as good news to House centrists who are wary of voting on a large, new government-run program, that seems unlikely to become law. Many centrists also want to wait and not vote until after the Senate, so they can see what is likely to pass. Pelosi wouldn't set a timetable Thursday, but she said she won't necessarily wait for the Senate.

House liberals want a public option included in the health bill, if only to pull the final version of the bill leftward.