Many more Democrats will sign a letter demanding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pass a public health insurance option via the budget reconciliation process, Sen. Robert Menendez said Tuesday.

Menendez (D-N.J.), who has signed the letter, predicted that as more senators endorse the effort, it will be harder for Reid (D-Nev.) to not hold a vote on the public option.


"There is a lot more people who I believe will join," Menendez said on MSNBC. "When you get to a certain number, there is a tipping point and people who may have felt like it's not possible may feel it's possible." 

The New Jersey senator's comments highlight the growing momentum behind reintroducing the public option. Reid stripped it from the Senate's healthcare bill in December after he could not attract enough centrists to support the bill with it included.

But Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), a proponent of the government-run plan, on Monday appeared to put a damper on the effort to pass the public option with 51 votes.

He told the Huffington Post that doing so would torpedo any chance of attracting bipartisan support for the bill ahead of Thursday's healthcare summit at the White House.

Menendez rejected that assertion, saying "Just simply having a vote on a public option is not, I think, the turbulence that wil derail any effort to ultimately have the type of healthcare reform that reduces costs, stops insurance company abuses against consumers and insures more Americans."

President Barack Obama did not include the public option in his healthcare proposal released Monday, but Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that it is up to Reid whether or not he wants to reinsert it into the legislation.

That could be a risky bet for Reid without knowing for sure whether or not he has 51 senators who would vote for the plan under the reconciliation rules.

Reid has signaled openness to reintroducing the public option but has not yet made a definitive statement.

23 senators have signed the letter since it was released last week including two Senate leaders; Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Menendez, and Senate Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.)

But Democrats still have more work to do to get to 51. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the powerful Finance Committee, would not say in an appearance on ABC News' "Top Line" Tuesday whether or not the Senate should pass any healthcare bill using reconciliation.

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) on "Top Line" said that using reconciliation to pass any healthcare bill would be "railroading the Senate."