The White House issued a statement Sunday evening reaffirming its commitment to a public option for insurance coverage and called reports that the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were pursuing different strategies, "absolutely false."
In a three-paragraph post on the White House's blog, Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer offered, what he called, a "Rumor Check" of those recent reports.
"In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition," Pfeiffer wrote. "That continues to be the President's position."
"Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate," he added. "President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate."
Coming amidst reports (including one on the Huffington Post) that Reid has been left alone to pursue health care legislation that includes a public option with a clause allowing states to opt-out, Pfeifer's post is not some insignificant bit of push back. The White House denied similar stories late last week. But as one source points out, this is, perhaps, the most direct pledge that the administration has made to work in tandem with Reid.
Still, sources on the Hill and off remain skeptical. One Democratic aide quoted in the Huffington Post's report on Saturday night, restated (after Pfeiffer's blog entry was published) that the president and his team "want to continue to work" with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on a public option that could be "triggered" into existence - leaving Reid to push the opt-out without the White House's cover.
"[The president] is not working against us- he just continues to be non-committal," the aide said.
The White House has stressed, repeatedly, that the president favors the public option. It was, as one administration aide put it, a major part of his presidential campaign. Pfeiffer's blog entry, at the very least, hints that the administration is going to be more aggressive in its engagement on the issue.