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Tilting at Windmills

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October 4, 2009

OBAMA STILL WANTS A PUBLIC OPTION.... Over the last couple of months, President Obama has been fairly consistent when it comes to a public option as part of health care reform -- he wants one, but he's flexible. The uncertainty has been frustrating for many, but the impression is that the White House genuinely believes in the idea, but isn't willing to scuttle the larger effort over this provision.

That, at least, has been the public message. The Chicago Tribune has an interesting report this morning noting that the president "strongly" supports a public option and has launched "an intensifying behind-the-scenes campaign" to get Senate Dems on board with at least "some version" of the idea.

President Barack Obama has long advocated a so-called public option, while at the same time repeatedly expressing openness to other ways to offer consumers a potentially more affordable alternative to health plans sold by private insurers.

But now, senior administration officials are holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the health care bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to bring to the Senate floor later this month, according to senior Democratic congressional aides. [...]

Obama has been reaching out personally to rank-and-file Senate Democrats, telephoning more than a dozen lawmakers in the last week to press the case for action.

The Trib's report describes a fairly aggressive effort in which the president "continues to talk up the public option" to moderate, skeptical lawmakers. The piece notes that Obama chatted by phone with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), for example, and reminded her of the polling data showing broad support for the idea.

And when members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation went to the White House to celebrate the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup win, the president "pulled some of them aside and reiterated his commitment to the public option."

Now, it's too soon to say whether this will have a practical impact. The White House doesn't have a lot of leverage with many centrist and center-right Democrats, and the president's willingness to lobby on behalf of the idea may not sway them.

But if this article is right, Obama not only stands behind the measure, but is still actively trying to line up support for it on the Hill. The odds on the public option surviving the process still aren't great, but the more the president pushes it, the better its chances.

Steve Benen 8:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Eventually you would think Congressional Democrats would look at their own polling numbers, the President's, and the public option's, do some quick math and figure out that the path to re-election might involve supporting a plan that 65% of the country wants, supporting their own party's president who has an excellent track record of campaigning and approval higher than that of Congress. And then they'd vote for the f***ing public option.

Posted by: Dr. U on October 4, 2009 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

I simply do not accept for a milisecond Obama has no leverage over those unfeeling assholes. Obama is the leader of our party, healthcare is a signature issue that effects all Democrats, and is the plain right freaking thing to do, little people Americans are suffering horribly from lousy healthcare.

The fucking Republicans never had unity problems like this. How come we're supposed to just blithely accept Democrats can't be competent politicians? Bullshit, fuck this ridiculous enabling, Steve, Obama has leverage if he chooses to use it.

If he doesn't that makes him incompetent, a doofus. A Harvard Law degree Doofus, Steve, face it, Obama doesn't look that competent right now.

Posted by: paradox on October 4, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Two sentences, said in public, would give Obama all the leverage he needs. "I won't sign a bill without a public option. If we can't pass such a bill, we deserve to lose the majority in Congress."
In short, throw the SOBs under the bus and let them figure out their own escape route.

Posted by: JMG on October 4, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

The new rates for Fed employees health insurance are out and the most used plan BC/BS standard has increased premiums by 10%+. Consider the cost of living has not increased, yet we see increases in the cost of health insurance. http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/rates/index.asp

Posted by: Dave on October 4, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

If he doesn't that makes him incompetent, a doofus. A Harvard Law degree Doofus, Steve, face it, Obama doesn't look that competent right now.

Oooh, this is fun. Let me jump on paradox's ban wagon.

Even though I campaigned hard all election season in my area for Obama, he is nothing like I expected him to be. He is proving himself, time and time again, to be a weak-unskilled leader who's incapable of passing meaningful policy. At least W was able to get the "troops in line". Oh, how I pine for those heady days of "real" leadership. I give up. Democrats deserve to lose their majorities. I'm registering as an Independent and I encourage you all to do the same.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 4, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

JMG writes: ""I won't sign a bill without a public option. If we can't pass such a bill, we deserve to lose the majority in Congress."
In short, throw the SOBs under the bus and let them figure out their own escape route."

That IS their escape route -- 52 House Democrats replaced Republicans; 48 of 'em are in districts that voted for McCain over Obama and for Bush over Kerry and Gore. Standing up to Obama like that would RE-elect these guys.

The key is always to identify the tough vote, then the votes you need to win it, and what THEY need, to vote your way.

Daring 'em to vote their constituencies over the President's agenda ain't it.

LOL -- then again, we could always apply the Ig Nobel prize winning lesson that cows with names give more milk.

Posted by: theAmericanist on October 4, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Liberals continue to get played by the White House on this. There will be something in the final bill that they can call a public option, but it won't be what liberals want and it won't be anything the insurance companies are opposed to. Everything to the contrary is just a snow job to keep the base from realizing how little Washington Democrats care about what they want.

Posted by: Shalimar on October 4, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

The White House doesn't have a lot of leverage with many centrist and center-right Democrats, and the president's willingness to lobby on behalf of the idea may not sway them.

Any conservatives reading this can tell you the White House doesn't have any influence at all. Heck, he can't even get the Olympics for his home city! There's no chance a public option passes, so there's no need to worry about it.

I hear somebody somewhere is thinking about bringing back the fairness doctrine, though, so you'd better rally the troops to prepare for that fight.

Posted by: FearItself on October 4, 2009 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know, maybe this is that '11-dimensional chess' we've all read about. Maybe Obama started out thinking that he really could change how things are done in Washington, with appeals to country and morality buttressed by majority polling that backs him up all along. Maybe he recognizes (and perhaps has recognized for months now) that he just can't change things.

Of course Dem pols could at any time see the strong public support of the PO and express steadfast support themselves--but the fact that they choose not to see those polls or ignore them, and don't express that support is probably indicative of why Obama can't change things based on rationality, why he can't do so because of the powerful interests and money that they have behind them that really is their true master.

But then I step back a bit and realize that this is a long game, Obama's just gotten started really, and I'm going to give him a bit more time and see what really comes out of his major 3 initiatives--health care, education, and climate. We've got him for 3+ more years, let's see what he can do (or not do). If he doesn't deliver on those, then I'll join folks like tempered optimism and try another way. Or, France seems like a nice place...

Posted by: terraformer on October 4, 2009 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

@ Shalimar, amen, brother.

BTW, see u at the next Tea party on Friday. I enjoyed our talk at last weeks meet. I encourage all you disenfranchised liberals to check out the movement. It's not really about being a democrat or republican, but rather just a lot of people who are put off by being played by our leaders. The movement may be heavily funded by corporations, but you can just feel the roots growing. Now, I think, the tree has sprouted and we'll start seeing real growth as liberals continue to wake up to their being played. Gosh, I'm so happy so many of you here are almost there. The Tea party movement welcomes you.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 4, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Time for Mr. Obama to summon up the ghost of LBJ, and twist (break?) some arms. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 4, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

I am waiting for CBO scoring of a public option included overhaul vs. an overhaul without a public option and let congress decide whether spending excess money is what people want.

Posted by: Th on October 4, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Corporate tentacles are too deeply entrenched in DC politics for any meaningful legislation to be passed.

It's a pipe dream to think the will of the people is being served by our elected officials anymore.

The only hope we have is for those folks to wake up to the fact that lobbyland trumps the people's voices and act contrary to that reality.

We need a low-cost nation-wide health care co-op that is not dependent on DC.

Change will only come to DC when the poor and under-represented sit in the house of power. To believe otherwise is a waste of time.

The cost of running for office is huge. Yes, Obama tapped into a vast pool of "poor money" but he's still hamstrung by the over-fed over-sexed under-curious so-called elected morons that dominate the GOP. As for the demoncrats, maybe there are a few good apples in that barrel, but it still reeks of corporate cronism.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 4, 2009 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, Obama's for something called a public option, now that it has been so weakened as to be unrecognizable -- and because knows will be further weakened.

Face it: on health care, he's a disgrace. Our disgrace maybe, but still a disgrace.

Posted by: Econobuzz on October 4, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

BTW, see u at the next Tea party on Friday.

Blah, blah blah. If you really think life is so black and white that distrust of the White House automatically makes one a Tea Partier, then you're the one thinking as Tea Partiers think. Everyone who doesn't agree with everything I do is an enemy.

Posted by: Shalimar on October 4, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Sure he does. A lot of people seem to fail to understand why we don't believe a man who has backed down from every promise that ever mattered to us. So go ahead and call us tea-partiers and other BS, I'm sure that's going to work out well for you during the midterms next year.

He can say whatever he wants, we have no reason to believe him and every reason not to.

Posted by: soullite on October 4, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

A bunch of upper-class twits that can't figure out why working people might have a problem with Obama's "sacrifice the poor so the rich can keep their money" policies. This sight is a lot of things, but it sure as shit isn't progressive.

Posted by: soullite on October 4, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Obama was elected President of the United States. The obstructions he runs into have as much to so with the social schizophrenia of this country stemming from the history of American slavery and American racism as it does anything else. The duped 'teabaggers' are the more easily duped by the racism. They have always been duped by their Repugnant masters to vote against their own benefit (and they are, many of them, too stupid to see that ("US keep your hands off my medicare" -- what maroons).

Obama was elected. I want him to take up a Louisville LBJ model basball bat and wade into the Legislative branch, particularly his own Dim party members, and raise hell. That's the most efficient way to get what he wants -- if it is clear what he wants.

If he is still promoting the public option to PA congresscritters and really wants it, i say "Batter up!"

Everything we fight for in health care, energy, economic reform, etc etc etc -- it is always also gonna be a battle agst American racism.

As Rod Serling wouldn't say: "Welcome to the South, all y'all..."

Posted by: neill on October 4, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

If you really think life is so black and white that distrust of the White House automatically makes one a Tea Partier, then you're the one thinking as Tea Partiers think. Everyone who doesn't agree with everything I do is an enemy.- shalimar

Healthy skepticism and constructive criticism I like. "Distrust" and whining, I don't. If you're gray on the subject, you fooled me. Does everyone claiming the banner of "progressive" think this way? That you elect one guy during one election cycle, and he magically wades into the fray and turns Washington upside down in 10 months? The republicans work on a model of building "permanent majorities" by electing and grooming local, state and federal officials, building nationwide pro-republican communications infrastructures, and stoking culture wars. The left throws most, if not all, their time and energy into one guy, and say that's all we want to give, make sweeping change happen or else. Now who's thinking in simple terms of black and white. Good luck with that.

You're not my enemy, you just whine too much for my taste.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 4, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Into *one* guy, tempered? Ummmm, no. I put in a lot of hours last year phone banking to get one of the new Democratic senators elected, beating out a two-term Repub incumbent. And our new senator is on the side of liberals and progressives and votes that way. Along with our senior Democratic senator. Now we have two votes *for* us and not this canceling each other out garbage.

Anyway, if you think we Dems/progressives/liberals are going to party with teabaggers (with their where's the birth certificate, Obama as Hitler, etc., etc. signs), you've got a screw loose. As do the rest of the baggers.

Posted by: Hannah on October 4, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

"It's not really about being a democrat or republican, but rather just a lot of people who are put off by being played by our leaders."

Funny thing is we don't see the signs with any republican "leaders" pictures being portrayed in a negative light. Why is that?

Posted by: Dave on October 4, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

So go ahead and call us tea-partiers and other BS, I'm sure that's going to work out well for you during the midterms next year.
He can say whatever he wants, we have no reason to believe him and every reason not to.
Posted by: soullite on October 4, 2009

Bwahahaha. If you're not a tea partier and you don't support those dern backstabbing democrats, what do you support? Either you're just a concern troll looking to spread demoralization, or you're a "progressive" who actually believes punishing democrats in the next election cycle will further your cause some how. That'll show'em. Just like you showed me.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 4, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

First, this is a Chicago paper which leads me to believe that Rahm is feeding them a bit of spin to protect the White House's left flank.

The last paragraph of the article tells the whole story.

But Obama and Reid are treading carefully, wary of including a provision that would scare off moderates such as Snowe, Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who have all indicated they would not support a national public plan.

If they are trying to keep Snowe, Nelson and Lincoln on board, then this is all about passing something that they can call the "public option" in order to appease the left. It won't work. We aren't that dumb.

Posted by: veblen on October 4, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

If, after all this publicity, Dems pass a plan that does not provide affordable insurance to middle-class workers, it will hurt them for a generation.

Posted by: Rachel Q on October 4, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

@Hannah

Thank you for your work. My comment about "progressives" and "one" person salvation for the democratic party is directed at those who think Obama is personally responsible for the votes of every democratic congressperson. My comment about joining the tea movement was dripping with sarcasm, but apparently not enough for all.

Some seem to think that Obama is really a secret corporate crony who wants to pass some weak bill that's just progressive enough to appease the left. Like paradox would say,I don't except this for a millisecond. If Obama had a congressional majority that wasn't saturated with saboteurs, I believe solid health reform would be possible. It's what Obama wants. It's just that the window for reform is narrow and the conservative democratic caucus is wide. Most of the so called blue dogs and their senate counterparts are in safe conservative districts and they know it. Little leverage can be applied to those that blow with conservative public winds and rake in corporate cash for backing. Make no mistake, a senator like Ben Nelson is in a 'pretty' position. Health insurance lobbyists probably stay awake all night dreaming of ways to legally throw money at him.

At any rate, the Healthcare debate is going bumpy to be sure, but probably much better than at the same point during the Clinton debacle. Time will tell.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 4, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

First, this is a Chicago paper which leads me to believe that Rahm is feeding them a bit of spin to protect the White House's left flank.

The story is very likely bullshit, but not for that reason. You probably don't know that the Tribune is a right-wing paper that hates Emanuel's guts. He ain't feeding them anything and they're not eating anything from him.

Posted by: shortstop on October 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Imagine the calculation of a Congresscritter: vote no public option and you continue to get all that insurance company money, and the President, while disappointed, has already said he could live with it. Until Obama offers you something to offset the campaign money coming from the insurance industry, he's not going to win this calculation. "Making the President happy" has to have some real-world, keeping-my-butt-in-this-seat value attached to it, the more specific the better.

Posted by: biggerbox on October 4, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Either you're just a concern troll looking to spread demoralization, or you're a "progressive" who actually believes punishing democrats in the next election cycle will further your cause some how.

Or maybe a progressive who realizes nothing progressive is going to pass under Obama before the balance swings back to Republicans and the country goes even further to the right. The whole process is corrupted beyond repair; if you can come up with something worth doing about it beyond supporting one of the corrupted sides, I'm all ears.

Posted by: Shalimar on October 4, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

The whole process is corrupted beyond repair; if you can come up with something worth doing about it beyond supporting one of the corrupted sides, I'm all ears.

God I hate this democratic cheerleader outfit. It's tight and chafes in the wrong places. But what I won't do is capitulate to a person engaged in a "oh well, they're all corrupt beyond repair" campaign. See Hannah @ 11:00 for what you can do about it.

Posted by: tempered optimism on October 4, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

@tempered, Hannah is correct. You have very limited insight into how liberals think to imagine that there is anything approaching common ground with the tea party movment. By the way, that movement will not grow much because of demographics, nativism, and a desire to see an active government ease the pain of the excesses of the free market. I think you're kidding yourself in a big way, but you do seem honest and communicative.

@paradox, please state what Obama's leverage is.

The arm-twisting leverage fantasy is just that, a fantasy. There is almost nothing any human could do to change, say, Kent Conrad's mind. There is not enough pork and corruption out there like there was decades ago.

Posted by: David Mercanus on October 4, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

@tempered, Hannah is correct. You have very limited insight into how liberals think to imagine that there is anything approaching common ground with the tea party movment.

And you and Hannah apparently have a very limited ability to recognize mile-wide, screamingly blatant sarcasm.

Posted by: Tom K on October 4, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

The POSITIVE poll numbers supporting a REAL public option seem to mean Voters are starting to grasp the significance of NOT allowing the private insurance industry to dictate Health insurance premiums uncontested.
It is sad that in the USA the profit margins of the Health Care system matter MOST over having AFFORDABLE Health Care for our citizens.
If legislation passes WITHOUT competition for insurers, Dems will benefit in the short run. In the long run, when Voters realize health care premiums continue to escalate at an unacceptable rate, the Dems will pay for such lunancy.
I am determined to STOP voting for Anyone in the future if REAL competition is lacking in the passed legislation.
The lack of concern for "Middle America" I have observed in these proceedings has been a public disgrace.
Health care Reform doesn't mean give our Citizens a Health Care Con job.

Posted by: Parityfanatic on October 4, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

BUSTED! Government Healthcare Advocate Admits Public Option is Trojan Horse!
http://02e56fa.netsolhost.com/blog1/index.php/2009/09/21/first-post-of-the-new-era-pickle-1-advoc

Posted by: Janet Storms on October 4, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently I missed tempered's supposed sarcasm. His/her comments sure don't read that way, esp. after he/she said he/she was leaving the Democratic party. I even went back and re-read them and still didn't get a whiff of sarcasm.

Perhaps we could all do well to add a "/sarcasm" or "/snark" after such comments, just so we can be clear?

Posted by: Hannah on October 4, 2009 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

His/her comments sure don't read that way, esp. after he/she said he/she was leaving the Democratic party.

That was sarcasm, too, Einstein.

Perhaps we could all do well to add a "/sarcasm" or "/snark" after such comments, just so we can be clear?

Good idea. Or even better: everyone, don't ever be sarcastic. It's just not fair to the dimmest bulbs among us.

Posted by: Tom K on October 4, 2009 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Frank Rich used to be a one-man cheering band for Obama. He still is, to an extent. But I share his disquiet about what's going on, especially on the open, public, view of the sausage making. Since I can't express myself as elegantly as he does (never mind assemble all the linked evidence), I'll just direct you to read his article (and let's hope it doesn't get "moderated):
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/opinion/04rich.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

Posted by: exlibra on October 4, 2009 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

All it takes to get the public option is for every Dem Senator to vote for cloture, not a huge thing to ask.

Posted by: bob h on October 5, 2009 at 6:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Oooh, this is fun. Let me jump on paradox's ban wagon."
If you really did what you say - and were sincere - you wouldn't call the troubles Obama is now having "fun" to talk about. Fraud.

BTW, it isn't so easy to force a bunch of Congresscritters to vote a certain way, especially when so many blue dogs were elected (from being run by Rahm, ironically, to get a big Democratic majority.)

Posted by: N e i l B on October 5, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK
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