House liberals insist on public health plan option (The Hill)

The Hill

House liberals insist on public health plan option
By Mike Soraghan
Posted: 04/02/09 02:12 PM [ET]

House liberals are threatening to vote against any health plan that doesn't include a "public plan option."

The Congressional Progressive Caucus made its point today in a publicly released letter to Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

The caucus is seeking to leverage its 77 votes, which is enough to block legislation on the House floor if Republicans are united against it. But for liberals to do so, they would have to vote against a Democratic president's top priority in his first year in office.

"We have polled CPC members very carefully in recent weeks and a strong majority will only support comprehensive healthcare reform legislation that includes a public plan option on a level playing field with private health insurance plans," wrote CPC co-chairmen Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

The letter says that most members of the caucus prefer a "single-payer" healthcare program, which has largely been taken off the table by Democratic leaders. They say the public plan should be included "at minimum."

Though legislation is months away, the proposal by President Obama to create a new federally run health benefits program is already perhaps the foremost sticking point in his budget request. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said House Democrats are committed to including such a plan.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has also indicated support for creating a public plan, Hoyer said, but Baucus is trying to strike a deal on a bipartisan healthcare bill with committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has rejected the idea.