Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 5, 2009

THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOBBYING FOR A PUBLIC OPTION.... We learned over the weekend that, at this point in the process, President Obama "strongly" supports a public option and has launched "an intensifying behind-the-scenes campaign" in the hopes of getting the provision included in the reform bill. (The LA Times ran a big story on this today, and it's getting lots of attention, but it's the same piece the Chicago Tribune ran yesterday.)

According to the report, "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." This has included some direct calls between the president and wavering lawmakers, in which he "continues to talk up the public option" to skeptical members.

Greg Sargent reports this afternoon that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is also "working behind the scenes to sell moderates on a public option" and the Senate leader "believes that some form of it will survive in the final combined Senate bill."

"As we begin the important work of merging the health reform proposals, Senator Reid will be talking to every member of our Caucus about how to put together the best possible bill that can garner 60 votes," Reid's office said in a statement emailed my way.

"There are a number of issues that are being discussed and debated internally -- the public option included," the statement continued. "Reid continues to believe that at the end of the day, some form of a public option that creates competition and lowers costs for consumers will be included in any Senate proposal."

All things being equal, this sounds pretty good. At this point, I was more or less expecting Democratic leaders to start lowering expectations, and preparing the party base for a letdown on the public option. Instead, most of the rhetoric seems to be pointing in the other direction, and the reported efforts of the leadership and the White House is no doubt contributing to the Democratic centrists who now seem less willing to break ranks.

But it's still wise to temper one's enthusiasm. For one thing, the distance between here and the finish line is still pretty long. For another, as we recently learned, "some form of a public option" can mean different things. Reid conceded last week that "public option" is a "relative term."

Taken together, put me down for "cautious optimism."

Steve Benen 4:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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"...the distance between here and the finish line is still pretty long."

After refusing, without warning, to allow a vote on the Wyden amendment last week, TPM is now reporting that Baucus has delayed the vote in the Finance Committee by another week (the vote was scheduled for tomorrow).

These actions after Baucus delayed the his committee's proceedings until after August and voting against the public option because, he asserted, it didn't have enough votes to win (Baucus evidently never votes for bills that are, in his judgment, unlikely to pass).

Bottom line, this guy is still stalling while doing his part to water down the final result, and nobody is doing a damn thing about it. Truly impressive.

Posted by: Chris on October 5, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

All things being equal, this sounds pretty good. At this point, I was more or less expecting Democratic leaders to start lowering expectations, and preparing the party base for a letdown on the public option. Instead, most of the rhetoric seems to be pointing in the other direction, and the reported efforts of the leadership and the White House is no doubt contributing to the Democratic centrists who now seem less willing to break ranks.

The "revelation" of the secret behind-closed-doors efforts by the WH seems more timed to bolster Dem contributors after the bad third quarter donation results.

Posted by: Disputo on October 5, 2009 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

it aint a train wreck we're watchin' like hillary's attempt (and the double cross by gm and others)

but it is an excruciating slo-mo in hell, and nobody knows whether it'll all be horse shit or we'll end up with a pony in there somewhere when it's all over.

sometimes i think they just want to make the gov pay for eliminating "pre-existing..." and let the 45,000 a year just keep on dying...

Posted by: neill on October 5, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

I love how even as the ball has moved forward, you can go on the blogs and find Progbaggers saying, "Oh, whatever we get will suck."

I'd love to meet them on their birthdays. "This cake is terrible." Or on vacations: "Yeah, it was 72, sunny and dry, and it was terrible. Typical."

Or when their child gets an 'A'. "It figures. 9 other kids got A's. Go to your room, you pathetic loser."

Posted by: Buford P. Stinkleberry on October 5, 2009 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

@stinkleberry:

"...and the portions are so small, too."

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

I'm not sure what sort of public option they can get out of the Senate. What will make a difference is whether what they pass can be built on. I think they will pass something Snowe can vote for, but that can be amended through reconciliation to look more like the House option three years from now.

Posted by: Patrick on October 5, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

i wonder if the momentum will falter with a 2010 downshift of the majority... i'd like to see something that provides impetus towards single payer this go-round, and it looks like there is only "a strong public option." "triggers," it seems to me can be fake-out. co-ops, too.

Posted by: neill on October 5, 2009 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Slightly OT, but Anthem, minion of Wellpoint, is suing the state of Maine. Something about not enough profit-taking for the insurers.

What WILL Olympia say?

Posted by: becca on October 5, 2009 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Buford P. Stinkleberrysaid:
I love how even as the ball has moved forward, you can go on the blogs and find Progbaggers saying, "Oh, whatever we get will suck."

Well after seeing the TARP bailouts -- Bush's and Obama's -- which gave the banks billions of dollars in exchange for . . . nothing, and seeing Obama's proposed reforms of Wall Street which will allow business as usual until another meltdown in ten years, yeah we progressives are skeptical.

I know there's not a final bill, but I read about proposals for a "public option" that only those currently without insurance will be permitted to purchase. I read about proposals for federal subsidies that will leave families paying more for health insurance than for rent. I read about proposals where insurance corporations will be able to charge people as much as six times the regular premium to cover their pre-existing condition. I haven't heard any real discussion about limiting co-payments.

And I heard Obama say that it will be illegal as soon as he signs insurance reform for insurance corporations to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions and to cancel the coverage of people who get sick, but I don't hear anything about enforcement mechanisms. If an insurance corporation can save tens of thousands of dollars by canceling someone's coverage, but a provision is slipped secretly into the final bill that limits the amount that they can be fined to $1000, then it will be business as usual.

Too many people are saying that any health care reform bill will be better than none.

Not true!

If after a reform bill is passed, people find that they are paying more for health insurance and still fighting to get their claims covered, if they find they are barred from buying insurance through a public option, if the premiums they are required to pay bankrupts them, then they'll blame the Democrats. And after the next election the Republicans will be back in power and back wrecking the country.


Posted by: SteveT on October 5, 2009 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone point me towards an intelligent discussion about how a bluff-calling GOP filibuster would play out? It seems to me it would wreak havoc with their party as, week after week, they would face the charge of shutting down Congress; in much the same way as The Gingrich Who Stole The Government, it could be very bad for them, no? What is it I'm missing?

Posted by: buddy66 on October 5, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

I love how even as the ball has moved forward, you can go on the blogs and find Progbaggers saying, "Oh, whatever we get will suck."

There has been no forward motion. What we got is a poorly sourced report that the coach, who has been hiding out in the locker room the entire game periodically issuing statements that he will be happy if his team loses as long as they beat the spread, has been working on a secret play that will win the game.

Posted by: Disputo on October 5, 2009 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'm of the opinion that this was Plan B (or possibly Plan C or D, depending on who's counting) the whole time. It was best for Obama if he didn't signal that a large portion of his presidency hinged upon getting healthcare reform with a public option, as that would have been like painting a giant bulls-eye on his face. So instead, he left it up to Congress to write the legislation (as per our Constitution), while he sat back and acted as a mildly interested cheerleader.

But it's now quite apparent that Republicans put the bulls-eye on his face after all, and since their best attacks have failed to rally any serious opposition to him or his plans (ie, from anyone who didn't already think he was a socialist), he now feels safe in taking an increasingly more active stand. But even still, it's largely behind the scenes and still hasn't involved Obama publicly insisting on a plan.

And for as frustrating as this is (particularly as he can't possibly let us know what he's really up to), I think this is the best way. I suppose I would have preferred a more aggressive pushback in August, but then again, maybe not. Perhaps it was best to give August to conservatives, so they could huff and puff and overplay their hands. And now, as usual, Obama held tight while his opponents over-reached and gave everything they had, and now he's playing strong again while Republicans slowly realize how impotent their best attacks had been.

Sure, perhaps none of this is intentional and he's just making this shit up as he's going along, but this really does fit exactly into the same pattern we've seen for the past year and a half. Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes, and all that.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on October 5, 2009 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Well after seeing the TARP bailouts -- Bush's and Obama's -- which gave the banks billions of dollars in exchange for . . . nothing,

That's odd. In my reality, many of these banks actually repaid the money and the government made a profit from them; at about a 15% annualized rate, according to the NY Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/business/economy/31taxpayer.html?_r=1&ref=business

And sure, they all haven't returned the money, but that wasn't the point of the bailout. The point was to save our financial system from collapse, and that was achieved. While it can be argued that there were better ways of doing it, there were most definitely worse ways. And without a doubt, suggesting that we didn't get anything from it is obviously false...at least in MY reality.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on October 5, 2009 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

My fear is that we will end up with "some form of a Public Option" that makes things even worse than they are now. No competition between Insurance Companies and some slight consumer protection-the insurance Companies may well pass the cost of such protection on to their clients in the form of higher deductibles and premiums. Those of us who can afford insurance at current levels may find ourselves priced out of any kind of coverage. The so called public Option doesn't look as though it will help us much because of high ceiling limits on getting the supplement and insufficient money allocated to it to cover the number of people who will need it.

Posted by: Judith Martinez on October 5, 2009 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

"some form of public option..."
If that's all that can be gotten into the final Senate bill, fine! Because the Senate bill is certainly not going to be the same as the House bill and both will need to be reconciled.
Which then leaves the Senators who voted for the original Senate bill in something of quandary: how do they explain voting AGAINST a bill that includes a public option when they have already voted FOR the public option?
Should prove interesting....

Posted by: Doug on October 5, 2009 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

We drive on highways subsidized by federal funds.

We fly in airplanes heavily controlled by the FAA.

We enjoy all manner of electronic spin-offs from a largely government run space program, including the satellites that zap microwaves to and from the earth so that our electron requiring devices operate.

Our utility grid is not entirely private.

We send our children to public schools.

Just what in tarnation is the pussy-footing around about a public option in health care all about?

Those who will vote for the bill yay or nay are public servants.

I could go on, but ya git ma drift!

Socialism? schmism. Finally....what about the huge taxpayer gifts to the financial clowns aka TARP,etc? Ain't that corporate socialism?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 5, 2009 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

stinkleberry...how funny you are! It's the truth, no matter what happens there will be many that will find fault but we must keep trying. I really believe we will get a decent health care bill.

Posted by: maggie on October 5, 2009 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

At a political rally Sunday, VA Gov. (and DNC Chair) Tim Kaine told me he was fighting for the public option. As Chair, does he have a lot of influence? He sure isn't in the spotlight the way Dean was.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on October 5, 2009 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

Put me down for 'I can smell bullsh!t when I see it.'

Of course the White House and Democrats in Congress are trying kill the stench of their health care reform disaster. With the load of lies they've told, their lack of engagement and urgency, and their nearly complete disconnect from the suffering of tens of millions of Americans, they're going to be shoveling crap until we're all buried by.

The only thing I'm cautiously optimistic about at this point is that a boatload of elected Democrats will be losing their jobs a year from now. They deserve much worse.

Posted by: NealB on October 5, 2009 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

NealB (and we can see the utility of "♪" etc.), I am disappointed too, but if Republicans get control it can only be much worse - for us.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on October 5, 2009 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

At a political rally Sunday, VA Gov. (and DNC Chair) Tim Kaine told me he was fighting for the public option. As Chair, does he have a lot of influence? He sure isn't in the spotlight the way Dean was.-- Neil B ♪, @20:35

Kaine is trying to ride two horses at once (the Gov of VA and the DNC Chair) and, not being a professional circus performer, seems to be failing at both jobs. He'd been the "rinse water" after Warner even when he had only the one job (Gov); he's gotten worse since. Not that I'm overly impressed with Warner as a Senator. As someone said somewhere... executives do not make good legislators; it's not in their DNA to consider other people's POVs, much less compromise.

Posted by: exlibra on October 5, 2009 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing I'm cautiously optimistic about at this point is that a boatload of elected Democrats will be losing their jobs a year from now. They deserve much worse.

Great, so they'll be replaced by Republicans, which will be seen as proof that America is a conservative nation. And this will be seen as proof that we need more conservative Dems and that Obama screwed up because he was too liberal by saying he'd give us healthcare reform. So even if Republicans screw up and bring in a wave of Dems in 2012, they'll be even more conservative than the bunch we have now. Brilliant strategy, NealB.

How long will it be until progressives realize that they will only succeed if Democrats do well at the polls, and that the easier it is for Dems to win, the easier it will be for liberal Dems to win? Probably about as long until these same Dems finally stop rooting for failure. We're closer than we've ever been to getting healthcare reform, yet the far-left is not only convinced that we'll lose, but is actually looking forward to our defeat at the polls.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on October 6, 2009 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

Most Members of Congress clearly represent corporate interests' over the interests' of the American People, whom they are elected to represent.

Why should our tax dollars pay their salaries?

Why are the American People mandated to subsidize these useless, obstructionist Members of Congress?

Why should Members of Congress enjoy the best socialized health care OUR MONEY can buy, but we cannot?

And why should Members of Congress be allowed to receive massive amounts of money from lobbyists in exchange for favorable legislation, while betraying the best interests' of the American people?

Shouldn't corporations be mandated to pay for congressional salaries, health care, travel, security and all other expenses since it's the corporate interests', not the American Peoples' interests', that are being represented by Congress?

Posted by: GREYDOG on October 6, 2009 at 4:25 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you for the insightful information.

The politicians, the special interests, which are legion in this health care debate, are counting on the complexity of the health care debate to keep the public confused and apathetic.

Thank you for the contribution of information that helps this citizen be more aware of the "truth of the matter."

OBAMACARE, in the view of this lowly citizen is a Trojan horse that will lead to a federally controlled health care system that will be used for political gain for those in command.

The Emanuel brothers have stated that any and all constituent requests in the domain of politics will be bartered on the basis of relinquishing opposition to their brand of socialized medicine.

While this is not the forum to provide all the evidence of the aforementioned assertion, one can find that evidence, and more to come, at: www.ostrichfallacy.blogspot.com

Keep up the fine work.

Gratefully,

Tony

Posted by: TONY on October 6, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Doctor Biobrain:

"Brilliant strategy, NealB."

It's not my strategy. I decry the Democrats' lying, lack of urgency, and indifference. It's their strategy, not mine. And while I blame them for their losses next year, I'm not happy about it. They deserve to lose. They deserve worse. Please don't point to progressives as if it's our fault elected Democrats are in the mess they're in.

Posted by: NealB on October 6, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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