White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that President Barack Obama is not endorsing a public healthcare insurance option because there is not enough support for it in Congress.
Gibbs refused to say why, as some liberals have demanded, Obama would not push for the public option to be included in a bill if Democrats decide to pursue legislation through budget reconciliation.
He did say that the president released the proposal he did on Monday, without the public option, because "there isn't enough political support in a majority to get this through."
Gibbs' remarks come on the heels of the demands of 23 senators who want Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pass a public option using the reconciliation process, which only requires that a simple majority of senators approve legislation.
Throughout much of the healthcare debate, liberals have pressured the White House to push lawmakers to support a government-run healthcare plan. The White House has said it generally supports a public option but has refrained from demanding that congressional leaders include it in their legislation.
Putting their full support behind a public option could be a risky bet for Reid and the White House without knowing for sure whether or not they have 51 senators who would vote for the plan.
Reid removed the public option from the Senate's healthcare bill in December after he could not attract enough centrist support to the bill with the it included.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) included a public option in her bill, which passed the House in November.
UPDATE Adam Green of the Progessive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which sponsored the public option letter, had this to say about Gibbs' comments:
The White House obviously has a loser mentality -- but America rallies around winners. Polls show that in state after state, voters hate the Senate bill and overwhelmingly want a public option, even if passed with zero Republican votes. More than 50 Senate Democrats and 218 House Democrats were willing to vote for the public option before, and the only way to lose in reconciliation is if losers are leading the fight. That's why Democrats in Congress should ignore the White House and follow those like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez who know that the public option is a political and policy winner.