One of the public option's most vocal supporters in the House on Monday stressed she and her colleagues would fight "as hard as we possibly can" to ensure its inclusion in the final healthcare bill.
The government plan is sure to be one of the most difficult debates to resolve once House and Senate lawmakers confer and combine their bills early next year. But Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) made clear last night that other liberal Democrats would not accept the Senate's decision to strip its bill of both the public option and a proposed expansion of Medicare.
"A lot of us will be fighting and encouraging our conferees to hold tight for the public option," she told MSNBC. "We haven't given up on that. That's extremely important to a lot of people — not just Democrats, but I mean Americans throughout this country.
"If we held to our position, it would certainly die in conference," Waters said, adding she was "hopeful" she could vote for the bill but ultimately had not read its most recent revisions.
The forthcoming conference committee to resolve differences between the House's and Senate's healthcare efforts is already shaping up to be a tough battle.
Some House Democrats still believe the chamber cannot pass a healthcare bill without a public option, while Senate Democrats insist that very provision — or any changes to their current proposal — could ultimately doom reform.
Much of the resulting frustration among liberal Democrats has since been directed toward Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D), whom many blame for the exclusion of the public option and the inclusion of tough abortion language.
Waters on Monday seemed to hint she shared that sentiment, and she specifically chided Nelson for walking away from the debate with a key Medicaid concession.
"When we see a senator like Sen. Nelson hold up a bill, and able to cut that kind of deal, it certainly makes us think that maybe we should fight harder also for our states," Waters said. "Of course we would like not to have our states have to pay their shares of Medicaid; of course we're in deficit here; many states are. Now he's got a spec deal, and some of us are not going to like that very much."