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.
"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.