Dozens of Dems Said to Back Going 'Nuclear' to Pass 'Public Option'

The so-called "public option" -- after being declared dead several times over the course of the health care debate -- is still on the radar screen for dozens of congressional Democrats who want the Senate to put it up for an up-or-down vote. 

Forty senators have come out publicly in favor of using the controversial legislative trick known as reconciliation to pass a government-backed health insurance plan, according to a Web site that has tracked Democrats' positions. 

Democrats are tentatively planning to use reconciliation, which allows certain components of a bill to be passed with a 51-vote majority, to pass a package of changes in the Senate -- presuming the House passes the original Senate-approved health care overhaul. 

The package of changes is not expected to include a government-run plan, but some Democrats in both chambers have tried to build support for doing so. A number of Senate Democrats have signed on to a letter from Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and three Democratic colleagues calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to allow a reconciliation vote on the option. 

According to an online tally by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee PAC, 40 senators have either signed the letter or put out statements of support. The House tally is 120. The committee held up the tally as a signal that the White House should change its tune on the public option, which was abandoned last year. 

"With 40 senators on board, there is no excuse for anyone who claims to support the public option to not join us in fighting for it," Adam Green, with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a written statement. 

But a government-run insurance plan was dropped from the Senate bill approved in December after several moderate Democrats said it was un-passable and Republicans assailed it as a budget-busting expansion of government. 

President Obama reportedly told House Democrats at a pep talk last week that he was "personally committed" to pursuing the public option, but that it would never pass the Senate.