White House, some Democrats downplay public option.

As the President continued his call for action and compromise on healthcare reform over the weekend, his top spokesman, Robert Gibbs, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and echoed Obama’s statements that the so-called public option is not a deal-breaker for the White House. The AP (9/14) reports that “the White House and its Democratic allies on Sunday tried to play down the role of a government insurance option in healthcare legislation as the party in power worked to reclaim momentum.” Gibbs “described the public option as just one way to achieve Obama’s goal of providing coverage to about 45 million uninsured Americans.” Gibbs said the public option as “a means to an end, but it is not all of healthcare,” and “echoing that sentiment, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said the focus on this specific issue has become a distraction in a debate over how most people receive healthcare coverage.” Other Democrats, including Sens. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Dianne Feinstein (CA), and Kent Conrad (SD), offered similar opinions.

Another AP (9/14) article, meanwhile, notes that David Axelrod, “the top adviser to…Obama,” said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “the White House is ‘not willing to accept’ that Congress will reject a government-run public option in the healthcare overhaul.” Axelrod said on CBS’s Face The Nation (9/13, Schieffer) that Obama “continues to believe it’s a good idea. He continues to advocate it. … But what he also said…is that this is not the whole of health insurance reform. And we should not let the whole debate devolve into this one question.”

However, the New York Times (9/14, Berger) reports that Axelrod also said, “We should not let the whole debate devolve into this one question, circulate around this one question, and lose the best opportunity we’ve had in generations to do something very significant about a problem that just — that is just getting worse.” The Times also reports that “in other television appearances, several Democratic lawmakers also played down the necessity of devising a government-run health plan as part of a healthcare package.”

Snowe wants public option “off the table;” Collins opposed to “trigger option.” ABC World News (9/13, lead story, 2:55, Harris) reported that “more cracks were developing in a central pillar” of the healthcare reform plan. ABC’s Kerley added that “the President’s call for a public option received another nail in the coffin, from the very Republican Senator considered essential to pass healthcare reform.” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said, “I urge the President to take the public option off the table. There’s no way to pass a plan that includes the public option.” And “while refusing to call the option dead, even the President’s men…downplayed its necessity.” The New York Times (9/14, Berger) notes that Snowe said that “clinging to the public option…’leaves open a legislative possibility that creates uncertainty in this process.'” The Hill (9/14, Soraghan) notes, however, that Snowe said “she could support a so-called ‘trigger’ that would enact the government-run plan to compete with private insurers if the private insurance market fails to become more competitive.”

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