In a definite reversal of Congressional leadership the last few weeks, House Majority Leader and chief lieutenant to Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer indicated that the public option is negotiable after all. In a conference call with reporters, Hoyer says he wants a public option, but he wants a health-care reform bill more:
Hoyer (D-Md.) emphasized his support for a public option in a teleconference call with reporters, but also said he wants to ensure Congress sends a bill to the president.
“I’m for a public option, but I’m also for passing a bill,” he said. Democrats believe the public option is necessary, useful and important, he added, “be we’ll have to see.”
He then said there are many other important parts of healthcare legislation that have been approved by three committees in the House.
President Barack Obama already has signaled he won’t insist that a public option be included in final healthcare legislation, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday opened a firestorm with the political left by saying that a public option was “not essential” to a healthcare bill.
Hoyer has long been seen as a voice for centrist Blue Dog Democrats, who have reservations about the public option.
Yesterday, as The Hill notes in this piece, Pelosi told an audience that she couldn’t get a bill passed in the House without a public option. The two seem to be on different pages, or perhaps they’re trying to mollify different constituencies. If Hoyer has more resonance with Blue Dogs, Pelosi certainly represents the leftist wing of the Democratic caucus in the House.
If this is just PR and strategy, it won’t last for very long. Hoyer has given Blue Dogs hope that they can avoid voting for an increasingly unpopular part of reform. Pelosi practically promised the Left that they will get their public option. At some point, those two directions are diametrically opposed, and raising expectations in both camps looks more like a strategy for civil war in the caucus than for getting anything done.
Are Pelosi and Hoyer on the same page anymore? Or has Hoyer thrown in with the Blue Dogs? In these situations, we can only offer one piece of advice: pass the popcorn.