Where You Stand Depends Upon Where You Sit
Word leaked last week of an official meeting, before Obama's speech, between him and the chairs of that Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. But that never happened. The White House never called.
Meanwhile, today, seventeen Senate Democratic moderates, basically everyone in Evan Bayh's moderate coalition along with Arlen Specter, have been summoned to the White House. That was an appointment kept.
I suppose this could be to crack the whip, but given the juxtaposition of these events as well as political reality of who is perceived to be needed to pass a bill, that's not likely. The strategy to respect the ability of progressives to hold up legislation has of yet not borne fruit.
This is a good a time as any to print Raul Grijalva's reaction to the speech:
“I am pleased that President Obama made the right choice to recognize the importance of a public option as part of the health care reform legislation.
“A public option is the most effective way to achieve our goals of controlling costs, eliminating abuses of patients by insurance company abuses, and providing quality health care to all.
“However, the President needs to be more direct on what the public option means and what it will do for the American people.
“President Obama was elected to bring change and progress. I fear that if my party and the President do not appreciate the mandate the American people have given us, the people will lose confidence in the idea that they can vote for change and get what they voted for.
“We in the majority must have the courage to do what is in our power to do, and pass a bill that guarantees access to affordable, quality health care.
“Doing nothing is not an option. That is why I oppose efforts to delay and kill real reform with a so-called “trigger”. We cannot wait and just hope that the insurance companies will develop a conscience.
“The defenders of the way things are want to diminish and destroy the public option because they fear it will be effective. A national insurance plan would have the bargaining power to get lower drug prices and better deals with health providers.
“We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies' good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive healthcare that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality. Health insurance reform is an investment in our future that we cannot afford not to make.”
The President said quite the opposite yesterday, actually, defending the concept of a public option but reassuring skeptics that it wouldn't have the market share or the rate-setting ability to do anything meaningful to costs. But that's not a ringing endorsement of the policy. It's a downplaying of what the plan on offer would do. In that sense, it's correct - the public option available now would firewall people who get coverage through an employer and wouldn't be able to set rates to bargain for lower premium costs. But of course, enshrining it in legislation would give it the opportunity to expand, which is the whole point behind the progressive push. So Obama really soft-sold the public option last night, and invited weak alternatives like co-ops or triggers. So Grijalva was right to attack the President on this point.
The public option is not a fetish. It's a policy prescription which, if done right, could save massive amounts of money for people, businesses and the government, as well as provide decent health care for everyone. It's only considered a fetish by Villagers insulated from the consequences of having no insurance. Those fighting for its enshrinement are simply doing right by their communities, secure in the belief that a competitive option to insurance CEOs is the best chance for quality and affordable health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege to succeed.
They're demanding another meeting. Good for them.
...The only hope is that the President is telling ConservaDems that they'd better not join a Republican filibuster, but I simply find that unlikely.