Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that she was getting calls from senators urging her to bring the public option back into the debate or to introduce a single-payer bill in the House while the Senate plots its way forward on health care reform.
"Is there really a market for these things?" Pelosi said she asked them.
She's not sure that there is. A House effort to pressure the Senate to include a public health insurance option as part of a majority-vote health care package will run into the previous agreement previously struck between Congress and the White House before the Massachusetts special election intervened to deprive the Democrats of their Senate supermajority, she said on a conference call with bloggers.
More than 100 House Democrats have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asking him to put the public option back in the legislation if it moves through the Senate using budget reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority.
HuffPost asked Pelosi if such a possibility was being discussed in her current negotiations with the Senate and White House.
"The fact is, when we go into reconciliation, if in fact the Senate decides to do that...I believe that it would be predicated on those areas of agreement that were signed off on before," Pelosi said.
Pelosi expressed her own support for it and said that the decision is ultimately up to the Senate.
"I have confidence that the Senate will do what they can get done, but I'm not in a position to be suggesting what they should do," she said.
But the Senate's failure to pass a public option in its own legislation makes it unlikely to be re-inserted, she said.
"The Senate never supported the public option, although there was talk that yes, there would be 51 votes for it. But it never passed on the floor of the Senate. It did pass in the House and of course I think it would be the way to go. But it isn't the way that the Senate went. So I think that what you might see coming out of reconciliation would be those areas of agreement that all three -- the White House, the Senate and the House -- had already agreed to like two weeks ago," she said.
The letter to Reid was launched by two House freshmen, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).
They argue that the current bill before the House, which passed the Senate, lacks the votes needed to pass.
Pelosi confirmed that analysis Tuesday, saying emphatically that the Senate must pass a fix to its current bill first, before the House takes up either bill.
"Our members will not support the Senate bill. Take that as a fact," said Pelosi, insisting that the Senate must move first. "That's what we're asking for."