Calm Before The Storm
I don't know if Mike Lux is right and the White House has thrown in with Olympia Snowe and her trigger idea, or if Sam Stein's sources are more credible, and nobody in the White House is pushing this to progressive groups overtly. But you'd have to be blind not to see this as the eventual endgame.
The White House has already pronounced themselves desperate for a bill, any bill. As much as they've talked about reconciliation, it's clear that they don't want to use it and would rather get 60 votes. They are pushing their membership in that direction, but enough of them have expressed reservations with the public option that they would probably reject the whole bill for that reason. Nobody asks them why they'd be willing to deny people health care because of one "sliver" of reform, but no matter. The White House has certainly kept themselves open to a compromise along the lines of triggers or co-ops; Peter Orszag did so again today. Getting Snowe's support means more about the Ben Nelsons and Mary Landrieus of the world signing off on cloture than it does just her vote. So the bill has been hijacked for Snowe's benefit. She's the same person who tried to delay the bill by a couple weeks to move it past the reconciliation window, which is an explicit attempt to kill the public option.
So there's not a lot of mystery here. Whether progressive groups are being sold something or not, the dynamic of the debate necessarily puts us with a trigger. Here's Mike Lux explaining that policy:
Senator Snowe is writing language into an amendment that is literally a Catch-22. The legislative language says that a public option will be set up in a state in which health care is not affordable to 95% of the state's residents, but it defines affordability as after the new tax credits that are written into the bill to make health care affordable. Not only would this be an incredibly weak public option (doing it in one state will mean it can't get the market power to compete with the big insurers), but it would be a public option that is written by its definition to never be triggered. This is a trigger specifically, intentionally designed to kill the public option.
As Lux later says, this will trigger something - not a public option, but a real civil war inside the Democratic Party.
The AFL-CIO, Howard Dean and Democracy for America, bloggers, MoveOn.org, progressive media figures, and the tens of thousands of people coming to Obama rallies and cheering wildly for a public option will figure out quickly that this trigger proposal is a farce specifically written to kill any chance of a public option. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus already are angry at having legal immigrants thrown under the bus by Baucus, all will explode.
As someone who spends every single day working hard to build and strengthen the bridge between the progressive community and the White House, I feel like the White House is triggering a bomb to blow the bridge up from under me (pun fully intended).
The trigger is a classic Obama "on the one hand, on the other hand" proposal. I'm afraid that nobody's going to buy that. Too many people have placed their hopes on health reform on a real alternative for competition with the private insurance industry. The White House may not like that it's dominated the debate, but it has. And there's little chance to turn that around.