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The man once slated to head Barack Obama's health care system overhaul is now coming out against one of the chief components of that effort.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said on Wednesday that the Obama White House would likely have to scrap a federal public option for health insurance coverage if it wanted to get the votes needed to pass systematic change.
"We've come too far and gained too much momentum for our efforts to fail over disagreement on one single issue," the Senator and one-time HHS Secretary nominee said, according to ABC News.
The remarks came after Dashcle, along with former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker introduced his own proposal for health care reform. That plan actually included a version of a government-run option. The Daschle proposal calls for (among other things) public insurance pools to be administered by state government, not the feds.
In coming out against a federal public plan, Daschle adds kindling to an already roaring debate on health care reform. On Thursday morning, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean repeated the mantra that you cannot have effective legislation if it does not include a public option. At the White House on Wednesday, several state legislators who had met with current HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius argued the same point.
Certainly, the public seems to be weighed in Dean's favor. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted on Wednesday night showed that 76 percent of respondents wanted a choice between a public option for insurance coverage and private providers.
UPDATE: A spokesman for the former majority leader called the Huffington Post to insist that Daschle is "still committed to the public plan" and was not urging Obama to drop it from his proposal.
"He was saying that we shouldn't let any issue derail what would be health care reform," said Eileen McMenamin, Director of Communications at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "He definitely did not say there should be no public plan."
Daschle, said McMenamin, did believe that a public plan could be administered by the states. And his chief concern with Obama'a approach was not the policy basis but the politics of getting it through Congress.