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Healthcare reform: Can Democrats give up public option?

As Obama calls on Congress to pass reform, the Democrats are still split on the need for a public health insurance option.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev.,accompanied by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks to reporters outside of the White House in Washington, on Tuesday, after a meeting with President Barack Obama about health care reform.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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As President Obama prepares to speak at a joint session of Congress, the lines in the sand over a public option in healthcare reform are wearing thin for Democrats.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says there will be no healthcare reform legislation in the House without a public option. Democratic centrists say the Senate cannot pass any bill that has a public option in it.

But there is broad and robust agreement among Democrats on a more critical point: Congress must move on healthcare this fall. Put another way: It’s time for leadership – and not only from the White House.

“We as a caucus know where we are and what we can get,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid after a caucus lunch today.

Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has been leading bipartisan negotiations over healthcare reform with the so-called Gang of Six since last spring, signaled Wednesday that he is about out of patience.

“There is a time and a place to discuss and to reach decisions," he said. "Today, I told leadership, the president, Democrats, ranking member [Charles Grassley] and others that next week we are going to mark up a bill."


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