A public insurance option "could very well" be a part of the final health legislation, the third-ranking House Democrat said Thursday.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said the government-run plan, which had been scrapped in order to win over centrists' votes in the Senate, could reemerge if the Senate were to use a procedural tactic to pass a set of additional health reforms with only a simple majority vote.

"So I think so far as the public option is concerned, if you're going to do a 50-vote or a 50-plus-one strategy, rather than a 60-vote strategy, I'm not too sure that the public option cannot be a part of this plan," Clyburn said during an appearance on MSNBC.

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"Because we were trying to get the 60 votes by dropping the public option, so if you're not going to do a 60-vote strategy but instead a 50-plus-one strategy, the public option could very well be a part of this package," the whip added.

Clyburn's remarks are the strongest signal yet from a member of the Democratic leadership that the controversial public option could be reincorporated into healthcare legislation.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has circulated a letter among House Democrats, which 119 of them have signed, calling for the reintroduction of the public option. 13 Democratic senators have signed a similar letter.

The letter calls for the Senate to pass a series of "fixes" to the healthcare bill it passed in December under the budget reconciliation process, a maneuver to short circuit the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate. The letter calls lawmakers to go a step further, though, and reinsert the public option, which had been previously considered dead.