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 Hussein ObamaShould President Trump, like President Obama, forsake human rights in pursuit of the deal with a tyrant? Obama shares summer reading list ‘Three Californias’ plan would give Dems more seats 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 (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump knocks Schumer, touts North Korea summit in early morning tweet Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems want answers on DOJ ObamaCare decision The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump, Kim make history with summit MORE (D-N.Y.) and Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Overnight 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 MORE (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday.

Both Schumer, who is vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, and Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinHugh Hewitt to Trump: 'It is 100 percent wrong to separate border-crossing families' Opioid treatment plans must include a trauma-informed approach Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems want answers on DOJ ObamaCare decision 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 CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperLawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars Overnight Energy: Pruitt used security detail to run errands | Dems want probe into Pruitt's Chick-fil-A dealings | Yellowstone superintendent says he was forced out Dems seek watchdog probe into Pruitt’s Chick-fil-A dealings 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 Sieben BaucusClients’ Cohen ties become PR liability Green Party puts Dem seat at risk in Montana Business groups worried about Trump's China tariffs plan 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 Mason ReidDonald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary McConnell cements his standing in GOP history 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 BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenGiuliani doubles down on Biden comments: 'I meant that he’s dumb' Meghan McCain shreds Giuliani for calling Biden a 'mentally deficient idiot' Dems say Obama return from sidelines is overdue 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 (Bob) MenendezSchumer: Obama 'very amenable' to helping Senate Dems in midterms The Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo 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.