Health Care Reform: I Sense A Trend

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 8, 2009

And so can you. Read this:

. . . remarks by the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, on the flight to Cincinnati reflected an effort by the White House to play down the importance of a public option to the larger overhaul. Mr. Gibbs said a public option would not affect most Americans — up to 180 million — because they already have insurance through employers.

And this:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that a public option might need to be dropped from the healthcare bill in order to get it passed.

“In the final analysis, we have to see what will pass,” said Hoyer (D-Md.). “If the public option wasn’t in there, I still could support it, because I think there’s a lot in there that’s good.”

Hoyer made similar remarks during the August recess, but went into considerably more detail upon returning to Congress for the start of a crucial work period that is expected to include a vote on the House legislation. A government-run health insurance option that would compete with the private sector is in the bill, but Democratic centrists have expressed concern over the provision and Republicans have signaled it as a deal-breaker.

Hoyer’s position contradicts that of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said last week that a bill without a government-run insurance plan “will not pass the House.” And it risks alientating liberals who have threatened to oppose healthcare reform if the provision is left out.

But the No. 2 Democrat appears more in line with President Barack Obama, who has stressed that the public option “is not the entirety of healthcare reform.” Obama is to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, and lawmakers will be listening closely to what he says about a public option.

And this:

Amid fresh signs that the White House is preparing to back a scaled-down health care overhaul that would only include a public insurance option as a fallback plan, several House liberals told Roll Call that they could support such a bill depending on how it was structured.

The “trigger” approach has been considered a deal-killer by liberals on and off Capitol Hill, and the willingness of some Congressional Progressive Caucus members to entertain it reflects a recognition that a bruising August recess has imperiled prospects for reform and redrawn expectations for what is possible.

“This is a way to get a bill,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said. “I believe it’s worth listening to because I want legislation that is going to, in some shape or form, expand coverage and bring down the cost of health care.”

Liberals stressed that the shift does not amount to an abandonment of their commitment to a “robust” public insurance option. They said they would only support a trigger if that approach guaranteed the same access, quality and affordability.

“I don’t want to give the impression that I’m so flexible that I’m willing to compromise away meaningful reform,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said. “But there may be a variety of ways of getting there than the one I originally formulated in my mind.”

The development could open a path forward for the White House, which has so far been vexed by the threat of a liberal rebellion in the House if it backs off a far-reaching public insurance option or a revolt by Senate moderates if it insists on one.

In advance of a make-or-break address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, President Barack Obama took the temperature of leading House liberals on a Friday conference call. Leaders of the Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sat in on the call and reiterated their support for a strong public insurance option, Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said. Obama did not make any definitive statements and asked for a follow-up meeting today or Wednesday.

“It sounded like he was trying to figure out how he could get something he could call a public option, regardless of what it is,” one staffer familiar with the call said.

Either this is the greatest series of head fakes in recent history, or a genuine public option is dead in the water.

Jane Hamsher and Paul Krugman can start wailing and gnashing teeth now. It would appear, after all, that they and other port-siders are getting sold out.

Previous post:

Next post: