Not Backing Away
It's good to see the health care discussion rounding back around to what's actually in the bill, because progressives have a winnable fight on those grounds. The situation with these town hall meetings, where the signal to noise ratio was so low, just served to shut everything down. Looking seriously at where everyone stands on key elements of the legislation presupposes that legislation will pass and makes clear who needs pressure and who needs thanks. Today we're seeing lots of public officials coming together strongly in support of reform with a public option. Anthony Weiner says it cannot pass without it.
WEINER: The President does seem like he's moving away from the public plan, and if he does, he's not going to pass a bill. Because there are just too many people in Washington who believe that the public plan was the only way that you effectively bring some downward pressure on prices, and if he says well we're not going to have that, then I'm not really quite sure what we're dong here.
BECKY QUICK: So you would not vote for a bill that made it through, if it got through...
WEINER: Not only I but I think there's probably a hundred members of the House, who believe for various reasons that you need to have something to bring down prices. Otherwise you're basically, what you're doing, you're keeping the cost arc. . . the CBO agrees with that. You know as it was, I think the public plan had been watered down so much. So if the President thinks he's cutting a deal to get Senate votes, he's probably losing House votes.
Even House leadership refuses to budge:
“As the President stated in March, ‘The thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices and it helps keep the private sector honest, because there’s some competition out there.’
“We agree with the President that a public option will keep insurance companies honest and increase competition.
“There is strong support in the House for a public option. In the House, all three of our bills contain a public option as does the bill from the Senate HELP Committee.
“A public option is the best option to lower costs, improve the quality of health care, ensure choice and expand coverage.
“The public option brings real reform to lower costs over the 10 year period of the bill.”
And even on the Senate side, you have people like Russ Feingold making their presence known:
“A public option is a fundamental part of ensuring health care reform brings about real change. Opposing the public plan is an endorsement of the status quo in this country that has left tens of millions of Americans uninsured or underinsured and put massive burdens on employers. I have heard too many horror stories from my constituents about how the so-called competitive marketplace has denied them coverage from the outset, offered a benefit plan that covers everything but what they need or failed them some other way. A strong public option would ensure competition in the industry to provide the best, most affordable insurance for Americans and bring down the skyrocketing health care costs that are the biggest contributor to our long-term budget deficits. I am not interested in passing health care reform in name only. Without a public option, I don’t see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it.”
It's just going to be incredibly hard for these politicians to climb down from that rhetoric, certainly not if they measure in the hundreds, as Weiner intimates. The House is committed to waiting on the Senate, as they won't send a bill to the floor until the end of next month. But they won't be content to just follow whatever crappy bill comes from the Finance Committee.
The fact that the White House let health care reform be defined on the left as the public option is their own damn fault. They didn't offer anything for progressives to run with, no tangible reforms that would do anything to both increase access and control costs. The public plan was all that was left. Now they have a major problem negotiating the space between House liberals and Senate ConservaDems. Considering that all they have to do is get a much smaller number of ConservaDems to agree to cloture and free them to even vote against the final bill, from a tactical standpoint the choice is pretty clear, IMO. We'll be watching.
And yes, we should thank those who are doing right in this fight.
...Yet another letter, this time from 60 House members, saying they won't vote for a bill without a public option. Mike Lux does a good job of laying out the way forward here.