Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 26, 2009

WHITE HOUSE 'COMPLETELY SUPPORTS' REID'S EFFORTS.... The main story on health care reform over the last few days is that the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid aren't quite on the same page. Reid, by all accounts, is prepared to move forward with a reform bill that includes a public option and a state opt-out compromise. President Obama, according to several reports, is skeptical that this bill will generate the necessary support, and sees a "trigger" approach as the path of least resistance.

Last night, Deputy White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer posted an item intended to knock down talk about differences between the leaders. It reads in its entirety:

A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false.

In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President's position.

Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate. President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate.

It's a noteworthy statement for a couple of reasons. Pfeiffer notes, for example, that the president not only continues to support a public option -- with no mention of triggers -- but "completely supports" Reid's efforts. Given the talk that the White House had shown minimal enthusiasm for Reid's purported plan, this on-the-record endorsement is helpful.

I also found it interesting that the statement became necessary at all. Since late Friday, there was a growing sense among reform advocates on the Hill and off that the White House needed to signal a) its ongoing support for a public option; and b) its backing for Reid's strategy. The Pfeiffer statement suggests strongly that the White House is well aware of the consternation and willing to make its intentions clear.

What's more, a senior administration official told Jonathan Cohn yesterday, "We will be 100 percent behind whichever direction Reid decides to go.... Reid hasn't asked for help. He is polling his caucus to make a decision on the opt out or the trigger. Whichever way he chooses, president Obama will help make the sale publicly and privately."


A reader emailed me yesterday asking, "Am I missing something here? I really do not understand what is driving the White House to be so reluctant about the public option." I don't think it's a substantive reluctance -- this doesn't seem to be a case in which the president actually prefers a trigger to the public option with the opt-out. It's entirely about pragmatism and vote-counting -- the White House isn't at all convinced the votes will be there for the better bill when push comes to shove.

That said, as of yesterday, the president's team seems to be offering unequivocal support for Reid's preferred approach, which will no doubt be welcome news on the Hill.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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First comment: wtf?

Obama needs (and has needed) to back the bill that is supported by the vast majority of Americans--the one with the public option. I'm not even sure which bill that is at this point but I do know this: if Obama & Co. pass a bad health care bill, the Repugs will put it around their necks in 2010 and Democrats are going to get hammered.

And they'll deserve it.

Posted by: cl on October 26, 2009 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

President Obama appears capable enough to deal with the senate clown car , as well as maintain a passable semblance of rationality . All that said and done , keeping a semblance of oraganised thought and sanity is perhaps , if memory serves , not available for all who enter into the fray .
Why I hear a gingrich ...

Posted by: FRP on October 26, 2009 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly, what all of this clarified for me is that the WH doesn't much care what ends up in the Finance Comittee bill as long as it passes with some sort of public option. Their strategy all along has been to get all the bills passed and then try to get the strongest possible deal on the public option in conference. Its likely that they feel that Snowe's trigger is the least risky way to get things to that stage. Get the FC bill passed and they will get what they want or closest to it in the end. The problem with putting all their support behind Reid on this particular bill is that if Reid is wrong, then Lieberman or Bayh or Nelson or any of the "moderate" Dems can kill health care reform with one single vote. None of us should be at all surprised that they are a bit hesitant to take that gamble.

Posted by: brent on October 26, 2009 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, I love me some opt out! Can't wait until it gets here to North Carolina, so Blue Cross can start buying up state assemblymen to keep their monopoly going! Hope all the real blue states who are creating this Frankenstein enjoy the same consequences of their cowardice in failing to reform health care for everyone.

Posted by: candideinnc on October 26, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

I, for one, resent the manipulation involved in this story. Anonymous officials leak rumors of outrageous positions on the part of the White House, excitable bloggers and analysts spend the weekend all whipped up about the treachery and stupidity of the White House. God knows what game who is playing, but it is clear that some game is being played.

Posted by: tom in Ma on October 26, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

CL has it 100% correct. No cost controls of a medicare like public option and the D"s will get roasted in '10 and '12. Then we can thank these dopes for a return to complete insanity.
As for the opt-out, not the best but I'm guessing the citizens of NC will see their neighbors in Virg. with much cheaper premiums and will actually vote for people that will opt in.

Posted by: JM on October 26, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Wonder if that guy at TPM who breathlessly sited 'multiple sources' who claimed that Obama was more inclined to do the 'trigger' thing ala Olympia Snow is now ready to retract his breathlessness ...

Posted by: stormskies on October 26, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

It's a double head-fake: If Obama is against it, then the Republicans will be for it.

Posted by: Marko on October 26, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

I keep seeing my preferred blogs getting punked by some anonymous WH rumor-mill.

It's beginning to annoy me. Must we go through this on-noes-Obama's-failing-us exercise every damn week?

Posted by: cmac on October 26, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I continue not to understand why we have a President who clearly understands that significant action is necessary but refuses to lead. He'll be blamed, whatever they come up with. He might as well get down and dirty and fight for something, not leave it to legislators muck around without direction.

Posted by: janinsanfran on October 26, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Pointless discussion of out of date rumor.

Since the White House supports Reid this is a silly comment. However, a justification for going with trigger not opt out is the agument that, so long as some bill passes the Senate, the conference committee will write a good bill and not even Ben Nelson would allow the Republicans to filibuster the committees report.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on October 26, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Obamastration says they're fully behind Reid (and it isn't clear what he in turn is behind anyway!), but I'm sorry to say these days: that isn't saying much.

Posted by: delver on October 26, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK



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