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White House Officials Reiterate Public Option Is Preferable, Not Required

Senior White House aides used their respective appearances on Sunday morning talk shows to reinforce the message that having a public insurance option would not be completely necessary for President Barack Obama to sign a health care reform bill into law.“He’s not demanding that it’s in there. He thinks it’s the best possible choice,— senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.— Jarrett emphasized that Obama believed a public option was the “right solution,— but she added that the bills emerging from committees in the Senate and House showed that much progress has been made so far in crafting the legislation.“For the first time in history, five committees have passed legislation,— Jarrett said. “There’s an agreement on 90 percent of what we’re trying to accomplish here.—Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who has been leading the charge for health care reform on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, again emphasized his support for a public opinion, but he noted there was room for compromise in the final Senate bill. He said he hoped the legislation could attract more votes on the Senate floor than it did in the Senate Finance Committee this week, where Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) cast the lone Republican vote to approve a bill with a public insurance option trigger.“My hope is that we bring these two bills together over the next number of days and we’ll present to the Senate an option that will include a strong public option,— Dodd said on “Meet the Press.—White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was among those who reiterated Obama’s desire to have a public insurance option as a means of forcing competition and therefore holding down health care costs. But he also continued to say that the option is not what will define the reform effort.“If you don’t have competition an insurance company has the run on not only premiums, but what type of health care you have,— Emanuel said on CNN’s “State of the Union.— “So the president believes in it as a source of competition, but he also believes it’s not the defining piece of health care.—He added: “The president will obviously weigh in when it’s time to weigh in on that,— referring to the public insurance option.During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Emanuel rejected the idea that the White House needs to take a more active or public role in pushing reform legislation through Congress, saying the president has been calling Members and guiding the process.He said that the reason there are actual bills moving through both chambers at this point “has happened because of the efforts of Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] and Majority Leader [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.], and also the efforts of the White House continuing to move that process forward.—But National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas), also appearing on CBS, continued to bemoan the lack of a bipartisan process in crafting the health care reform proposals, reiterating that Republicans have been largely shut out of the process. He argued that none of the current bills moving through the House and Senate, including the Senate Finance proposal that was passed out of committee, meet with Obama’s stated goals of keeping health care costs down and not raising taxes.“We’re still waiting for the president’s plan,— Cornyn said, referring to Obama’s joint address to Congress last month when he laid out those goals. “None of the proposals we’ve seen now do that.—Still, he seemed to hold out some hope that Republicans could have a role in the final negotiations on health care reform legislation. “I think clearly we could find a way to work on this in a bipartisan basis,— he said.Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) also offered his support for a more bipartisan approach, pointing out that the current Senate bill is being “written in Harry Reid’s office behind closed doors— and Republicans have not been invited.Kyl, the Minority Whip, disagreed with his fellow Senate Democrats on the necessity of a public option, but he called the policy “not the most important issue.— Still, the Arizona Republican predicted that the public option, “in a form,— would be in the final Senate bill.Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.

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