WASHINGTON (CNN) – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday a health care bill could pass the House without a public health insurance option. That assessment from the number two Democrat breaks with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who just last week insisted that "a bill without a strong public option will not pass the House."
When asked about the Speaker's position, Hoyer didn't answer directly, but signaled there would be support for a bill as long as it included major reforms. "I think a bill can pass the House that the majority of the House believes enhances, moves forward substantially the providing of access for affordable, quality healthcare…I believe a bill that accomplishes very substantially the objectives the President has put forward and we put forward can pass the House."
The Majority Leader repeated that while he still supports a public option, he could vote for a bill without one. "I think it is vital - it's vital, important. Do I think it's a condition of passing the bill? My position has been I'm for the public option. I want to see us adopt a public option, but I think there is a lot in the bill that is very good in addition to the public option. Interpreted, that means if the public option weren't in there, I still could support a bill because I think there's a lot in there that's good."
Hoyer repeated an assessment he made last month about the level of support for the public option. "I think it's a good option. On the other hand, I have said I hope we move a bill forward that can garner a majority of support."
Hoyer noted that Democrats lost a "great warrior" when Senator Kennedy died and said he "was as strong a voice as there was" for a public option. But he also pointed out that one of the reasons Kennedy was so well regarded on both sides of the aisle was that he was "a consummate legislator in trying to reach a consensus that could garner enough votes to change policy. That's what we're trying to do, and I hope that's what we do do."
Hoyer told reporters he didn't have a timetable set in terms of whether the House would act before the Senate, but House members are interested to see what the Senate is working on.