WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Democrats met Friday in hope of achieving consensus on one of the biggest sticking points in the health-care battle, the House majority leader predicted final legislation will include a "public option."
The question, Rep. Steny Hoyer told CNN, is what form it will be in. "We'll have to see how that legislative process goes. The public option is a priority for us, it's our objective, and we think that in some form, a public option will be available," he said on CNN's "American Morning."
In recent days, the White House has been speaking with moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the Finance Committee
negotiators, about her idea for a "trigger mechanism" that would bring a public option in the future if health-care legislation fails to meet thresholds for expanding coverage and reducing costs, Snowe told CNN on Wednesday.
Moderate Democrats who are uneasy with a public option, such as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, have said they could support a trigger mechanism. Such support could help a health-care bill gain the 60 Senate votes that would be necessary to overcome any filibuster attempt by Republicans.
The mechanism might also satisfy some liberal Democrats who previously described a public option as a necessity. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had argued that a bill wouldn't pass the House without a government-run public health insurance option.
But Pelosi and others have softened their language in recent days as the focus has turned more toward a compromise. "This is about a goal. It's not about provisions," Pelosi said Thursday, adding that so long as legislation meets goals of "affordability and accessibility and quality ... then we will go forward with that bill."
Republicans unanimously oppose including a public option as part of
initial steps. Some more conservative-leaning Democrats also express concerns
that it could be too much government involvement and could put private insurers
out of business through unfair competition.
President Barack Obama insists a public-option entity would act as a
non-profit that has to fund itself. He said it would help hold insurance
"We want to see the public option in a bill passed from the House,"
Hoyer, D-Maryland, told CNN Friday. But he added, "we ought not to just focus
Asked whether he would ultimately support a bill without such an option,
Hoyer said, "I'm prepared to pass a health-care reform bill that provides
millions access to affordable, quality, health care.
"We think the public option is an important component of that. But
obviously you're going to have to have 218 votes in the house and you're going
to have to have at least a majority in the Senate to do that. We'll have to see
how that legislative process goes."
–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report