Obama still wants a public option

OBAMA STILL WANTS A PUBLIC OPTION…. Over the last couple of months, President Obama has been fairly consistent when it comes to a public option as part of health care reform — he wants one, but he’s flexible. The uncertainty has been frustrating for many, but the impression is that the White House genuinely believes in the idea, but isn’t willing to scuttle the larger effort over this provision.

That, at least, has been the public message. The Chicago Tribune has an interesting report this morning noting that the president “strongly” supports a public option and has launched “an intensifying behind-the-scenes campaign” to get Senate Dems on board with at least “some version” of the idea.

President Barack Obama has long advocated a so-called public option, while at the same time repeatedly expressing openness to other ways to offer consumers a potentially more affordable alternative to health plans sold by private insurers.

But now, senior administration officials are holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the health care bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to bring to the Senate floor later this month, according to senior Democratic congressional aides. […]

Obama has been reaching out personally to rank-and-file Senate Democrats, telephoning more than a dozen lawmakers in the last week to press the case for action.

The Trib‘s report describes a fairly aggressive effort in which the president “continues to talk up the public option” to moderate, skeptical lawmakers. The piece notes that Obama chatted by phone with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), for example, and reminded her of the polling data showing broad support for the idea.

And when members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation went to the White House to celebrate the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup win, the president “pulled some of them aside and reiterated his commitment to the public option.”

Now, it’s too soon to say whether this will have a practical impact. The White House doesn’t have a lot of leverage with many centrist and center-right Democrats, and the president’s willingness to lobby on behalf of the idea may not sway them.

But if this article is right, Obama not only stands behind the measure, but is still actively trying to line up support for it on the Hill. The odds on the public option surviving the process still aren’t great, but the more the president pushes it, the better its chances.