Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), an often contrarian member of the Congressional Black Caucus, on Sunday called proposed penalties against small business that do not provide their workers health insurance, "indefensible."

The congressman addressed insurance mandates that would levy fines against small businesses of 25 or more employees that do not provide health insurance or would require a business to offer health coverage based on the size of its payroll.

"Frankly, the House leadership seems wedded to keeping that in," Davis told the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. "And the more you look at it, the more indefensible that is."

Davis has long been critical of current health reform proposals, a stance that makes him an outlier in the CBC, which overwhelmingly support reform.

The fourth-term Democrat also criticized the public health insurance option, a top CBC priority, as unworkable.

"Public option can't pass the Senate...I'm interested in something that can pass and Barack Obama can sign," Davis said.

President Barack Obama spoke at the CBC's annual Phoenix Awards Dinner on Saturday night and stressed the need for "affordable choices" but did not mention the public option. Obama did praise the insurance "exchanges" included in Senate Finance Committee's bill.

Davis was an early backer of President Barack Obama in last year's election, serving as Alabama state campaign chairman. The lawmaker is running for governor of Alabama, a state GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won handily in 2008.