Right-wing blogs falsely suggest Owens opposes public option

Following Democrat Bill Owens' November 3 victory in the contested NY-23 Congressional race, right-wing bloggers have sought to highlight the “under-reported fact” that Bill Owens “campaigned against the public option.” However, while Owens modified his position on the public option during the course of the campaign, he has expressed support for a public option since September, and on October 30 Owens endorsed the public option in the House health care reform bill.

Right-wing bloggers suggest Owens' position on public option is contrary to House health care reform effort

Erickson: “Bill Owens, the man NY-23 sent to Congress last night, campaigned against the public option.” From Erick Erikson's November 4 Red State blog post:

While the Democrats are crowing a bit this morning over the unusual circumstances of NY-23, they might want to pay attention to one under-reported fact: Bill Owens, the man NY-23 sent to Congress last night, campaigned against the public option.

That is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Obamacare by the voters up there.

Democrats might want to rethink how they view NY-23.

Gateway Pundit: “Democrat Bill Owens campaigned against the public option.” Responding to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's assertion that Congressional Democrats “won” last night by picking up votes in support of health care reform, Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft wrote, “Democrat Bill Owens campaigned against the public option. Pelosi was lying."

In fact, Owens recently endorsed public option

In August, Owens expressed opposition to a public option that would be “available to anyone.” Following his nomination, in an interview with the New York Observer's Jimmy Vielkind, Owens reportedly said that “he does not support a public option available to anyone.” From Vielkind's August 11 New York Observer report:

Owens took a decidedly moderate line on health care restructuring, saying he does not support a public option available to anyone--the crux of the restructuring put forward by President Obama. He said some health plans in Congress not longer include the idea of a public option. This stance is gaining some traction in the Senate.

“It changes every day, the various iterations,” Owens told me. “The bill that I would vote for would have a couple of elements to it. It would cover the uninsured, it would eliminate the ability to exclude for a pre-existing condition, and also that focuses on cost-reduction.”

In September, Owens indicated he would consider a public option. According to a September 11 New York Observer report, Owens modified his position on the public option following President Barack Obama's September 9 address to the Joint Session of Congress. From Vielkind's report:

Owens, who told me the night he was nominated that he did not support a public option, said that it was, as a component of an insurance exchange, something he “would look very carefully at; they seem reasonable as principles.”

“My view is that there are a couple of principles that have to be adhered to in coming to a resolution of the health care issue,” Owens told me. “I'm not in favor of a litmus test because I think that's one of the big problems in Washington today. I think we need to be able to analyze the bills and make a rational decision about it in line with the principals in the bill.

”As long as they meet the four criteria that I laid out, those are things that I would consider," he said. “Again, I don't want to apply a litmus test, I don't want to apply a label. I want to be able to analyze the information and the bill and come to a conclusion.”

(His four criteria are that any bill not add to the deficit or “place burdens on small businesses,” bring down insurance costs, provide access to coverage for those without insurance, and ensure those with pre-existing conditions are insured. Owens has said this before, but it's not on his web site, which provides no information about his biography or positions.)

On October 30, Owens endorsed public option in newly released House health care bill. During an October 30 debate, Owens was asked about whether he would support the recently released House health care reform legislation. Owens stated: “I'm very pleased that the House has come out with a bill. I think that pushing the ball forward, which I think is very important, this is an extraordinarily important issue both socially and economically in the country. I am generally in support of this bill. I think it is moving things in the right direction.” When specifically asked about his support of a public option, Owens stated that the public option in the House legislation seemed “reasonable.” From the debate:

OWENS: I believe that moving towards this legislation is very appropriate. I think that the type or the form of public options included in this bill is reasonable. It is not one that allows people to move to the government option if they already have health insurance coverage, so it is not going to control a significant segment of the population. What it will do, though, is deal again with those who do not have coverage and will eliminate this uncompensated care problem that we have, which is very significant for health care providers.