White House Is Discouraging Senate Dems From Pursuing Opt-Out Public Option

This really is bizarre. I don’t know what to make of it:

President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan “triggered” into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.

The administration retreat runs counter to the letter and the spirit of Obama’s presidential campaign. The man who ran on the “Audacity of Hope” has now taken a more conservative stand than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), leaving progressives with a mix of confusion and outrage. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have battled conservatives in their own party in an effort to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Now tantalizingly close, they are calling for Obama to step up.

“The leadership understands that pushing for a public option is a somewhat risky strategy, but we may be within striking distance. A signal from the president could be enough to put us over the top,” said one Senate Democratic leadership aide. Such pleading is exceedingly rare on Capitol Hill and comes only after Senate leaders exhausted every effort to encourage Obama to engage.

Two senators who are strong supporters of a public option pushed back today:

A second high-profile Senator has slammed the “trigger” idea favored by Sen. Olympia Snowe and, according to published reports, the White House, saying that a bill without a real public option would have a hard time picking up his support. Appearing on Face The Nation, Sen. Russ Feingold joined Sen. Jay Rockefeller in opposing the trigger idea, calling it “an invitation to the insurance industry” to keep themselves in line for a couple years, only to find new ways to abuse the system thereafter. Feingold praised Sen. Harry Reid for moving toward putting a public option in the bill that would come to the Senate floor, and dismissed the suggestion by host Bob Schieffer that it would move the bill too far to the left, saying that liberals favor a single-payer solution and this represents a compromise.

Via Steve Benen, Jacob Hacker reminds us why the trigger option is such a bad idea.

The White House right now is its own worst enemy:

It’s incredibly frustrating.  Although Reid is close to getting 60 votes on cloture, Obama and Rahm (who, for all his bluster, is politically timid) are pushing for the “trigger,” which is the same as nothing.

The question, then, is why?
My view … is that they’re being too timid here. The politics have shifted since the summer — both in terms of the bill itself and the public option. The NYT today, for instance, noted how small businesses are suffering from skyrocketing premiums (thus strengthening the policy argument for a public option).

Frankly, the lack of Republican support is a greater political threat to Republicans than to Democrats. But it’s hard to get some Democrats to see that.

Progressives are fighting back:

In an unprecedented move, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee will air a new TV ad, and is gathering signatures on an emergency petition, warning the administration not to support a health care compromise, favored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), that could kill the public option.


The spot will air at least 100 times in Maine, augmented by an online fundraising drive. The group’s recent ad targeting Snowe helped them raise over $100,000.

5 Responses to “White House Is Discouraging Senate Dems From Pursuing Opt-Out Public Option”

  1. Chris says:

    Yes, it’s extremely frustrating that the biggest roadblock to change seems to be Obama’s White House itself. I wrote a column recently lampooning conservatives for being profligate spenders when it comes to overseas wars and penny pinchers when it comes to protecting Americans at home. But perhaps our focus right now should be on the White House.

    I’d like to see a discussion on Obama’s motives. Is he lining up future campaign support from the insurance industry? Is he a consummate compromiser always seeking the middle ground? Does he believe sacrificing the public option will win over the teabaggers and Fox news types? I feel I know very little about the character or strategy of this president.

  2. The majority of Americans don’t want this plan, as demonstrated in Poll after Poll. Although Congressional Leadership and the White House are far Left … they still can’t rally all Democrats for the fillibuster-proof vote. Seems to me our elected leaders refuse understand why Americans don’t want to give away even MORE power to the Government … instead calling us ‘astroturf’ or ‘angry mobs’. Pelosi and Co. refeuse to even release the text of the bill, how arrogant!! In addition they spout lies about the opposition and the Healt Insurance Industry.

    Where are all these fat profits? http://apnews.myway.com/article/20091025/D9BI4D6O1.html

  3. Obama plays golf while Unemployment shoots up and American Soldiers get killed in Afghanistan …


    Plus all the White House parties, basketball games, and trips to Copenhagen … “its the Economy Stupid!!”

  4. According to Robert Reich the “Public Option” will kill Seniors .. or we will just let them die as he says because it costs too much. Can anyone say “Death Panel” ?? Maybe Reich is right, just let them die rather than wasting $$ for a few more miserable months of life at the expense of the living …

    I just wish more Regressives could be as honest as Reich in this speech at Berkeley:

  5. Tater Salad says:

    To the Democrats & Republicans in Congress who don’t quite get it: I want to offer a personal pledge. I and a lot of other people have every intention of removing you from Congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the majority of the American people want but without any type of public option attached. That is not a hollow or idle threat. We will come to your district and we will work against you, first in the primary and, if we have to, in the general election. We do not want the “Public Option (single payer)”…..period! Rest assured, we are all watching how you vote now and in the future.


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