WASHINGTON – Two House Democrats who favor a government insurance plan, a central element of health care legislation passed in their chamber, acknowledged Sunday it might have to be sacrificed as negotiators work out a final agreement with the Senate.
Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House and one who had appealed to President Barack Obama not to yield on the public plan, set out conditions for yielding himself.
Asked during rounds on the Sunday news shows whether he could vote for a final bill that does not embrace a public plan, Clyburn said: “Yes, sir, I can.”
Clyburn added: “We want a public option to do basically three things: Create more choice for insurers, create more competition for insurance companies, and to contain costs. So if we can come up with a process by which these three things can be done, then I’m all for it. Whether or not we label it a public option or not is of no consequence.”
While insisting “it’s not dead,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said he recognizes realities in the Senate, where Democrats had to scrape up every vote from their side even to pass a bill without a government plan to compete in the private insurance marketplace.
“Before the House was to give up the public option, we would want to be persuaded that there are other mechanisms in whatever bill comes out that will keep down premiums,” said Van Hollen, appearing to sketch out a bottom line without a government plan necessarily included.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said there will need to be more give on the House side than the Senate, which took weeks to find the 60 votes needed for passage.
“If we are going to have a final law, it will look a lot more like the Senate version than the House version,” Menendez asserted.