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Health Deals Anger Former Obama Staffers, Supporters

(AP)
President Obama has said in recent weeks that he still supports a government-sponsored health insurance plan, or "public option," but he has stopped short of calling it a necessary element of health care reform. For tens of thousands of his supporters, that is not good enough.

More than 70,000 former Obama campaign staffers, volunteers and donors have signed a petition, spearheaded by the liberal group the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, saying as much.

"We worked so hard for real change," the petition reads. "President Obama, please demand a strong public health insurance option in your speech to Congress. Letting the insurance companies win would not be change we can believe in."

The PCCC is organizing the petitioners to gather in front of the White House today just after Noon, to protest the potential abandonment of the public option, a proposal the president once said "must" be included in a reform package, as part of a health insurance exchange, or "marketplace" from which consumers can choose from various insurance plans.

Of the more than 70,000 who have signed the petition, more than 400 are former Obama staffers, about 25,000 were volunteers for Mr. Obama and 40,000 donated money to his presidential campaign.

While the Senate is still working on its own versions of health care legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will pass a bill that includes a public option.

Additionally, at least 60 members of Congress who have said they will only support a health care bill with a public option. That is enough to kill a piece of legislation without a public option, given that Democrats can only afford to lose 38 members of its 256-member caucus to pass a strictly partisan bill, as the Hill newspaper points out.

Still, drawing lines in the sand on issues like the public option may not make it any easier to accomplish reform. The Hill newspaper reports that at least 23 moderate Democrats have already told their constituents they will vote against the president's health care reform plan, and many remain undecided.

Meanwhile, a former staffer for another president is warning in a Washington Post column that liberals should forget the notion that health care reform must include a public option.

"Unless liberals rethink this premise, and fast, Democrats will squander their best chance in a generation to end the scandal of the uninsured, bring health security to every American family and begin the long-term process of getting national health costs under control," writes Matt Miller, who worked for former President Bill Clinton.

Health Care Tops Congress' Full Agenda

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

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