House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ramped up the pressure on wavering Democrats Friday morning, calling on them to state in front of their colleagues where they stand on a "robust" public health insurance option.
Robust has become a code word on the Hill that means a public option tied to Medicare rates; it is the preferred policy of progressives.
At a closed door meeting of the Democratic caucus, Pelosi ordered the party roll to be called. Reporters outside the room could hear names being called out loudly.
The question they faced, according to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.): If the health care bill has a robust public option, will you vote for it on the House floor?
The framing of the question is key. The Speaker is not asking whether the member supports or opposes the public option, but rather whether he or she could support a final bill that included such an option. "The leadership clearly wants to do that if they have the votes," Nadler told reporters.
Some members left the meeting in an apparent attempt to avoid the roll call. Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kansas), a key swing vote, left before the roll was called and told HuffPost he has yet to be surveyed. Asked if he'd back the robust public option, he demurred. "I'm gonna wait and see," he said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), exiting the meeting, told reporters that the survey would continue throughout the day.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said he counted eleven no votes and two undecideds. Roughly 60 members were not at the meeting, he said. During floor votes on Friday, Democratic leadership continued to survey its members.
"I think if the roles were reversed and we were an obstinate number of ten or nine on the progressive side, there would be tremendous pressure on us to move it along," Grijalva said.