Once More With Feeling: Advocates Press Nancy Pelosi On Including A Healthcare Public Option

It’s been declared dead before, only to be resurrected — and Democracy for America (DFA) hopes to pull that rabbit out of a hat one more time.

The progressive advocacy organization is rallying supporters to push House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to include a provision for a healthcare public option in the final bill lawmakers approve and send on to the Senate.

Pelosi had been one of the strongest advocates for inclusion of a public option but last week indicated that a federally run coverage plan would not be the final legislation, which will be brought up under rules known as reconciliation. Bills brought up under reconciliation are not subject to a Senate filibuster, which is a key point because Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown‘s Jan. 19 election gives Senate Republicans a 41st vote that would uphold such a filibuster.

“I’m quite sad that a public option isn’t in there.” Pelosi is quoted as saying. “But it isn’t a case of it’s not in there because the Senate is whipping against it. It’s not in there because they don’t have the votes to have it in there.”

Democrats hope that they are in the home stretch to enact healthcare reform, which has been making its way through Congress, on and off, for the last year. The White House hopes to have healthcare wrapped up this week; President Obama has postponed an overseas trip in anticipation of helping the reform endgame.

Public option supporters, who have included Obama, say such a federal health plan would help lower costs and provide needed competition to private insurers. Opponents have railed against it as a “government takeover” of healthcare.

DFA, which has strongly pushed inclusion of a public option throughout the process, is not giving up.

The organization sent an email to supporters Sunday.

“It’s up to us to make sure Speaker Pelosi doesn’t kill the public option because she’s afraid to act. She needs to know that we’ll be there to have her back,” says the email, from DFA’s political director, Charles Chamberlain. “We’ll whip Congress to pass the bill and help every step of the way to get the majority votes we’ll need to win.”

Chamberlain’s email asks supporters to sign an online petition in favor of a public option.

“We’ll deliver the new signatures every day until she gets the job done,” it says. “The fate of the public option is in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hands. It’s up to us to make sure she doesn’t kill the most popular piece of reform.”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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