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Hoyer open to co-op

From NBC's Luke Russert

If each chamber passes a health reform bill, there looks to be a showdown approaching during reconciliation over a public option. Liberals in the House are adamant about one being included, but the Senate Finance Committee appears to be headed toward going with a co-op instead.

But today, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) indicated in his off-camera briefing with reporters to being open to a co-op.

"We think a public option is very important," he said, but, "We are going to have to see what the Senate does on co-op to see how it's formulated -- and to see whether or not we preclude that it will have a similar effect. After all a co-op will be a competitor."

Hoyer also reiterated support for the so-called "Cadillac Tax" -- a tax on the health-care plans of extremely wealthy individuals -- which has picked up steam in the Senate as a way to close the cost gap.

"I have indicated pretty consistently that I think that is a reasonable alternative," Hoyer said. "I think it is good health-care policy and good tax policy. Again, it's gold-plated. We're not talking about average policies. Nobody is talking about taxing average families benefits."

Hoyer added that "discussions continue" between Blue Dogs and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman. But cost continues to be key for Blue Dogs to jump on board

"Clearly, our intent is to bring cost down," Hoyer said. "It is difficult getting CBO scores, obviously both the chairman and the Blue Dogs have indicated that whatever agreement is reached you need to know the CBO score before you can actually mark up the bill."

Hoyer also expressed his desire to see the Senate's take on the legislation. "The Senate is going to go its way," he said. "We hope the Senate votes ahead, so we have some idea. We want to move on a parallel track with the Senate."

Video: Former Director of Communications for CIGNA Wendell Potter joins Countdown guest host Howard Dean to talk about why Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans are standing in the way of a health care public option and how the health insurance industry exerts its influence on politicians.

But Hoyer stressed that Blue Dogs should want the House to be proactive on health reform. He said he has indicated to Blue Dogs that "the Senate's action should not be a condition for our action."

Hoyer conveyed he had no regret that the House would not be able to pass health-care reform by August. "No, I think you need to set objectives," he said. "The president wanted to see if the House and Senate could act… I think it's unfortunate we didn't meet our timeline, but I don't think it's a failure by any stretch of the imagination."

On whether or not reform, though, had been stalled because of moderate Democrats who fear supporting legislation that has been referred to as "Obama Care" and "Pelosi Care" by certain conservative interest groups, Hoyer became animated.

"This is a critically important issue for the American people," he said. "This isn't about 'Obama Care' or 'Pelosi Care.' This is not about personalities. Nobody in America doesn't believe that this is a major challenge facing our country. To politicize the debate, demeans the importance of this issue. … In concluding, this is not about a popularity contest. This is about a critical necessity for the American people and their ability to continue to have affordable health care that can keep their families secure and well."