Just one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that a healthcare reform bill could never make it out of the House without a public option, fellow Democrat and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said it might be impossible to pass a bill that contains a public option.
And if that's the case, Hoyer said, the House will just have to bow to the weight of public opinion and pass whatever it can.
"I'm for a public option but I'm also for passing a bill," Hoyer declared in a media conference call as reported by Politico.com. "We believe the public option is a necessary, useful, and very important aspect of this … but we'll have to see because there are many other important aspects of the bill as well."
That's quite a far cry from Pelosi's pronouncement on Thursday, issued from her home district in San Francisco, in which she said: "There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option."
Hoyer's conference call offered another swift turnabout as well.
Earlier this month, Hoyer and Pelosi were literally on the same page, as co-authors of a USAToday op-ed calling town hall protesters "un-American."
The two blamed conservative provocateurs for "an ugly campaign" designed to "disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue."
Now Hoyer is backing down from those remarks.
"There are some people who are angry, yes," he begrudgingly told the media Friday. "But basically these are productive meetings that do what a democracy is designed to do."
How to reconcile the contradictions?
Pundits view the slew of mixed messages as an indication the intra-Democratic schism over the public-option has party leaders flummoxed. It appears they can't abandon the public option without losing their party's progressives. And if they embrace it, conservative Democrats whose ears are still ringing from outbursts voiced in recent town hall meetings are sure to walk away.
Democrats are trying to blame Republicans for the impasse, saying they're being too partisan. But it has grown increasingly evident Democrats have been unable to resolve the differences within their own party.
The public option, of course, is the Obama administration's plan to establish a government-subsidized health insurance system that would compete with private insurance companies.
ObamaCare opponents have warned doing so would ultimately kill off the private insurance sector, and lead to a single-payer, European-style system of healthcare.
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