Obama Urged by Centrist Dem Leader to Back Public Option with Trigger

A key proponent of a public option with a trigger made his case directly to the president today.

My colleague, ABC News' Teddy Davis has more:

When President Obama met with the Moderate Dems Working Group on Thursday, the panel's co-chair urged him to bridge divisions within the Democratic Party by structuring a public insurance option as a "fallback" and not as a first resort.

"If there is no meaningful competition after a couple of years, we would create competition through a public plan," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., in an interview with ABC News. "I think that could end up being the compromise because it bridges the differences between those who are for a robust public option and those who are adamantly opposed to a public option."

"I raised it with the president," Carper continued, referring to his public option with a trigger proposal.

"Olympia Snowe and I are both advocates of this approach," he added, referring to the Republican senator from Maine who so far has been alone among GOP senators in wanting to craft a compromise with Democrats.

"I know she has raised it with the president," Carper added.

Carper was one of 17 moderate Senate Democrats who met with the president at the White House on Thursday. The meeting came one day after the group met on Capitol Hill with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Following Thursday's meeting, Carper spoke with ABC News by cell phone while traveling by train to his home state of Delaware. During his meeting with the senators, Obama did not draw any lines in the sand on the public option.

Instead, he continued to leave the door open to a compromise between the liberal and moderate wings of the Democratic Party by portraying a public option as merely a mechanism for achieving choice and competition.

Asked where the votes are on the public option among the 17-member group that he leads, Carper said it was too soon to say.

He believes, however, that Democrats will ultimately rally around the idea of creating a public plan as a "fallback" to a set of private insurance plans which would be offered to small businesses and individual consumers through an exchange modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP).

Asked what effect Obama's speech had on the health reform effort, Carper said: "I think the speech served to galvanize Democrats."'

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