Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

I spoke with Jude McCartin, Press Secretary for Jeff Bingaman, who indicates that Senator Bingaman as a member of the HELP Committee supports a "strong public option."

She wanted to clarify that there has not been language written yet for a public option, and therefore nothing to vote on. She felt my earlier story, which stated that Bingaman and Senator Kay Hagan were blocking the inclusion of a public plan on the HELP committee, implied that there was a specific amendment both were refusing to vote for.

The source clarified: "There is a working draft of language being written right now. It’s the concept of a robust public option they’re objecting to." Numerous Senate staffers have now confirmed that this is their understanding of what has been happening on the committee, and that nobody from the White House is whipping the bill.

Nyceve is also reporting that Hagan and Bingaman have been the roadblocks.

But McCartin insists this is not true. "Senator Bingaman absolutely supports a strong public option," she says.

"Does he support one that is available everywhere from day one?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

Roger Hickey of the HCAN steering committee indicated that there was concern that if the public plan came out as an amendment it could lead to a floor fight, and said that it was important that any public plan be included in the core of the bill. McCartin indicated that Senator Bingaman was in favor of that, too.

"It would be great if we could get it in the bill before it leaves the committee," she said.

Bingaman has signed on to Sherrod Brown’s resolution demanding that any health care reform bill include a public insurance option.

Local blog New Mexico FBIHOP and Democracy for New Mexico are keeping an eye on the situation.

If Bingaman does in fact support a public option, that means Kay Hagan is the sole obstacle on the HELP committee. A call to Senator Hagan’s press secretary, Dave Hoffman, has not been returned.

Hagan’s offices: DC 202-224-6342, Greensboro 336-333-5311, Raleigh 919-856-4630.