White House Loses Control of Health Care Debate

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WASHINGTON -- With liberals furious about dropping the public health insurance option in favor co-ops and conservatives virtually unmoved, President Barack Obama's top domestic priority -- for the moment at least -- appears to be dead in the water.

The president's own words have come to haunt him.

"The public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform. This is just one sliver of it. One aspect of it," Obama told a Montana town hall audience.

Click play to hear CBN News White House Correspondent David Brody explain why liberal Democrats are not pleased with the White House's attempt to drop the public health insurance option.

The White House insists President Obama still wants a "public option" -- a government health coverage plan -- to compete with private insurance companies, but his main goal is still to slow and eventually bring down health care costs.

Over the weekend, talk of consumer-owned co-ops picked up steam as an alternative to the public option, but it has backfired, turning some of the president's allies against him.

"If the president thinks we're going to get the votes without public option, he's got another thing coming," Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., said.

The potential of dropping the public option has liberal Democrats fired up, arguing that it's the best way to lower costs, improve quality care, and expand coverage.

"There can't be equality and justice with over 40 million Americans who don't have access to health care," health care reform supporter Clayton Redmon said.

For the White House, it all boils down to the math.

It doesn't have the votes in the Senate to pass a bill that has a public option.

And now, another problem: Some Democrats are warning that the president may lose support in the House, too.

"Some of us who have gotten roughed up pretty good at town hall meetings and stuck in there because we believe in this, now kind of feel like we have a tire track on our chest where the bus that rolled over us is," Rep. Weiner said.

But not all Democrats are on the same page. Some are willing to make the compromise.

"Whether the ultimate total package has a public plan option or not has not been a deal breaker for me," Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., said.

Meanwhile, the debate over health care is being fought over the airwaves as well as in town halls.

Nearly $60 million is being spent on TV ads and supporters of the president's plan are out spending the opposition 5-to-1.

That doesn't seem to be helping much with polls showing the majority of Americans opposed to the current plan. One Blue Dog moderate Democrat has even said it'd be a good idea to start all over.

Speaking of which, the White House declared "game over" on controversial its e-mail inbox for information on "fishy" emails about health care.

But the biggest concern for the White House now is trying to regain control of this ongoing debate over health care.

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CBN News
John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.