W.H. didn’t make calls backing public option

W.H. didn’t make calls backing public option

The White House did not lobby senators on the Finance Committee before they rejected two amendments that would have added a public option to the panel’s healthcare reform plan.

The lack of political pressure from President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWhite House details plan to roll back environmental regs Obama sends well wishes to McCain: 'Cancer doesn't know what it's up against' John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer MORE and his lieutenants is the latest indication of the White House’s lagging interest in passing healthcare reform that calls for a large government role.

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Despite consistently calling for the idea of a government-run health plan to keep pressure on private companies, Senate leaders say neither the president nor any White House officials lobbied Democrats on the Finance Committee, which voted down two public option amendments offered by Sens. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerMcCain diagnosis looms over GOP healthcare talks Lawmakers send McCain well wishes after cancer diagnosis OPINION | GOP's 7-year ObamaCare blood oath ends in failure MORE (D-N.Y.) and Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday.

Both Schumer, who is vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, and Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinTrump's FBI nominee passes committee, heads to full Senate Report: Republican says Trump doesn’t even scare Senate pages Graham, Durbin revive bill to help 'Dreamers' MORE (D-Ill.) say they are unaware of any phone calls from the administration to Finance Democrats to push for a successful vote on the amendments.

The White House’s silence calls into question the administration’s commitment to a public option plan at a time when the idea is teetering in the upper chamber. Schumer and other Democrats also expressed frustration with the administration’s lack of effort.

Asked if the administration played any role in Tuesday’s committee vote, or called any committee members, Schumer simply said, “No.”

“I would hope the president would weigh in,” Schumer said.

Committee member Tom CarperTom CarperGovernors-turned-senators meet to talk healthcare Overnight Healthcare: GOP'S repeal-only plan quickly collapses in Senate Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (D-Del.), who voted yes on the Schumer amendment and no on the Rockefeller measure, said he wasn’t leaned on.

“I expect the administration to play a far more active role in the days ahead as we report a bill out,” Carper said. “The administration has played pretty much the role they need to play, but there will be opportunities for them to play a greater role, to be more vocal.”

Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusOPINION | On Trump-Russia probe, don’t underestimate Sen. Chuck Grassley Lawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone GOP: FBI firing won't slow agenda MORE (D-Mont.), a critic of the public option, said he couldn’t answer whether the administration did enough lobbying on amendment voting because “I don’t know how much they did.”

An administration official said White House officials have “provided technical assistance and clarified the president’s views on a few narrow issues where there was a question about the administration’s position” as the amendments process has continued.

“There is no confusion among members of the committee about where the president stands on the issue,” the official said.

Asked if the president is weighing in on different amendments, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that he doesn’t “believe we’re that involved in the committee process.”

Gibbs added that administration officials are “watching the process.”

White House spokesman Reid Cherlin also said Obama “has repeatedly made his position on the public option clear, including in his address to Congress and the nation in September. That position has not changed.”

Obama did call Rockefeller this week, but only to lobby for the senator’s support for the final bill — not the public option amendment.

Asked if Obama needs to do more, Rockefeller said, “Everybody needs to do more.”

But Durbin and Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidConservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibuster Ex-Reid aide: McConnell's 'original sin' was casting ObamaCare as 'partisan, socialist takeover' GOP faces growing demographic nightmare in West MORE (D-Nev.) both defended Obama’s strategy, saying the former Illinois senator is being careful not to push his ex-colleagues too hard.

“He’s said on a number of occasions that he’s in favor of the public option — he’s made that very clear,” Reid told The Hill.

“It’s too early anyway,” said Durbin. “This is all about the Senate Finance Committee, and I don’t think it’s fair to say the White House is expected to lobby in favor of an amendment.”

White House officials, most notably Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, have delved into committee politics on healthcare reform. When the House Energy and Commerce Committee was struggling to pass a healthcare bill before the August recess, Emanuel was actively involved in the negotiations.

Obama and Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDems see huge field emerging to take on Trump Lawmakers send McCain well wishes after cancer diagnosis Budowsky: Dems need council of war MORE have not been shy in calling members to vote for controversial legislation. Both men personally appealed to many members to vote for the economic stimulus package as well as the climate change bill that cleared the House earlier this year.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert MenendezRobert MenendezBipartisan group, Netflix actress back bill for American Latino Museum The Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see Taiwan deserves to participate in United Nations MORE (N.J.) downplayed the administration’s lack of lobbying effort this week, striving to put it in a context of the bill’s overall progress.

“I’m not aware of any efforts they made for or against anything, but generally they haven’t been lobbying this bill,” Menendez said.