Pelosi shoots down public option 'trigger'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday shot down a healthcare compromise that has been viewed as the best chance for getting a bipartisan bill through the Senate.

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Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected the idea of a “trigger” for a public option. That means that the government-run healthcare plan would be a fallback option, enacted only if other reforms didn’t make healthcare more accessible.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who is being courted by the Obama administration as their best hope for getting a Republican to sign on to President Barack Obama’s healthcare initiative, supports a trigger. But Pelosi does not.

“I don't even want to talk about a trigger,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference. She said the “attitude” of her fellow Democrats is that “a trigger is an excuse for not doing anything.”

By dismissing a trigger, she also risks further alienating Blue Dog Democrats, who are angry at Pelosi's handling of the bill, particularly her push to include a public option supported by the liberal wing of the caucus. Blue Dogs at times have threatened to block the bill.

Pelosi spoke after a caucus meeting Thursday morning at which outside experts talked to members about the public option, and health “co-operatives.”

Co-operatives, which would be run by members, not the government, are a popular idea in the Senate, and with some centrist Blue Dog Democrats.

Pelosi told her fellow leaders last week that she planned to write a bill that includes a public option tied to Medicare rates, pulling back from a deal she and other leaders had cut with a group of Blue Dog Democrats in July. She also said she wanted the bill to include an income surtax on the wealthy to help pay the cost.

But she backed off that position in meetings this week, saying she will leave those decisions to the caucus.