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Nancy Pelosi has refused to take possession of the hot potato.

"We're talking about something that is not going to be part of the legislation," Pelosi said, noting "with sadness" that the public insurance option won't be part of legislation. "I'm quite sad that the public option is not in there," she said....

"I'm not having the Senate, which didn't have a public option in its bill, put any of that on our doorstep," she said. "It did not prevail. What we will have in reconciliation will be something that is agreed upon, House and Senate, that they can pass and we can pass... It isn't in there because they don't have the votes."

Progressive activist Adam Green, who's been leading an outside effort to reintroduce the public option into the debate, said that Pelosi's whip count is unconvincing. "When the Senate Whip says he will aggressively whip the House reconciliation bill through the Senate unamended and onto the President's desk, the Speaker doesn't get to say the Senate lacks the votes," said Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "Mark Warner, Tom Harkin, Herb Kohl, Claire McCaskill, and other undeclared senators are not going to vote against the president's top priority, and if Speaker Pelosi refuses to even allow a vote on the public option, than she killed the public option. She needs to step up."

Whatever the political reality in the Senate -- and it does appear that the votes exist there -- Pelosi faces her own public-option problems in the House. Even were she to push for a public option, she might not be able to get it through her chamber this time around, despite succeeding the last time. Several Democrats who have backed the bill, and are supporters of the public option, are bucking the Speaker this time, objecting that their restrictive abortion language is not in the legislation. Pelosi said after the briefing, asked if abortion law changes could be made in the reconciliation, that the process must stick only to budget matters.

Whatever the political reality in the Senate -- and it does appear that the votes exist there -- Pelosi faces her own public-option problems in the House. Even were she to push for a public option, she might not be able to get it through her chamber this time around, despite succeeding the last time. Several Democrats who have backed the bill, and are supporters of the public option, are bucking the Speaker this time, objecting that their restrictive abortion language is not in the legislation. Pelosi said after the briefing, asked if abortion law changes could be made in the reconciliation, that the process must stick only to budget matters.
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That means Pelosi needs to flip 'no' votes who thought that the earlier House bill was too liberal, and adding a public option could complicate that process.

It doesn't help Pelosi that the Obama administration has shown no interest in the public option over the past year.

Pelosi argued that she should not be blamed for the failure to implement the public option, charging that she has been a supporter of single-payer health care before most reporters at her briefing were born.

She makes a good argument when it comes to the blame game. Of the three parties involved in these negotiations, the House, Senate, and White House, the only entity to actually pass the public option and to keep it alive was the House, propped up by a fired up base and activist network that saw both the key policy reasons for the public option, as well as the political popularity of it--popularity that would have done the Dems some much needed good come November. Common sense, however, rarely seeps through the walls of conventional wisdom in DC. So if--and if we know anything, it's that this entire process is iffy--the public option is dead the smoking gun isn't in Pelosi's hand. Jon Cohn is right on this one, the Senate killed it. Although they had an accomplice in the White House, which obviously felt it was a disposable element. Had Obama wanted it, and fought for it like he did the highly unpopular excise tax, it probably would have survived in some form, just like the excise tax.

The push hasn't ended. Rep. Grayson is gaining steam with his Medicare buy-in public option proposal, a smart idea. We know that a different version of Medicare buy-in, one that would allow people over 55 to obtain Medicare coverage, only had one real opponent in the Senate--Joe Lieberman. Smart progressive congress people and Senators would do well to keep that in mind as they are whipped for their votes.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 12:46 PM PST.

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