A band of 22 New Democrat and Blue Dog lawmakers say they support a “robust” government-run health plan, boosting chances of moving healthcare reform with a public insurance plan through the House.
Democratic centrists remain the biggest obstacle to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) ability to pass a healthcare bill with a public plan, and many conservative Democrats oppose a public option as unfair to private insurers.
But the letter from the 22 New Dems and Blue Dogs indicates opposition from this group is far from universal.
“We have a broader coalition to pass this than what was assumed before,” said Rep. Lois Capps (Calif.), a New Democrat who circulated the letter supporting a public option with Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “While we may belong to a more moderate branch, we want it known that we support the public option.”
The 20 New Democrats on the letter represent nearly one-third of the 68-member caucus. It is signed by two Blue Dogs and three members who are both New Dems and Blue Dogs.
President Obama has also strongly supported a public option, but it has not been popular in the Senate.
Some House conservatives say that Pelosi and House leadership should not force vulnerable House members to cast a vote that will be unpopular in their districts but still won’t become law.
“Do I think newer members who won in conservative districts are being put in a tough spot? Yes, I do,” said Rep. Gene Taylor (Miss.), a conservative Democrat and critic of the bill.
Republicans also say that centrist Democrats could be in trouble with their constituents if they vote for what the GOP has termed a “government takeover” of healthcare.