Morgen on August 16, 2009 at 3:03 pm
It appears the answer may be “yes”, if you believe the headlines today. The NY Times, Washington Post, and the AP are all reporting that the Administration has caved to conservative pressure and is backing away from a government-run, public option in favor of the non-profit “co-op” model that the Senate Finance Committee is putting together. If this turns out to be true this would of course be a major victory for conservatives. And while I believe it would be a mistake to declare victory and let our guard down now, the coordination of this message throughout the media is a very good indicator that the Administration has in fact shifted their position.
So grab your popcorn because the next phase in the political battle over the public option will take place entirely on the left. While the card-carrying members of the Hopenchange fan club will readily go along, the President’s most liberal supporters will undoubtably be outraged by this concession to conservatives. In fact, there are progressive caucuses within both the House and Senate that have vowed they will vote against any bill that does not include a “robust” public option. And in theory they have the numbers in the House at least to derail the entire effort. But while this will pose a major test of the President’s leadership (and will be immeasurably fun to watch), I expect that most Democrats will ultimately circle the wagons and get behind whatever plan the President supports (likely the Senate Finance bill).
So before this happens, and for the sake of posterity, I thought it would be fun to highlight what some key liberal proponents of healthcare reform have had to say about the importance of the public option in recent weeks:
There is no reform without a public health insurance plan. Handing the private insurance companies 50 million more lives to cover and giving them a monopoly over health insurance coverage for working people is not reform.
The only health care reform worth doing is the public option. If you give away the public option you have no health care reform.
We do not see real, systemic change in the health-care system if there is not a robust public option…The public option is going to happen.
[A]ny plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans – including a public option…
In case there was any doubt, the preceding quotes should make it crystal clear how significant of a victory defeating the public option will be for conservatives. Just watch as the Democratic spin machine goes into high gear proclaiming that the goal all along was just to make sure there was adequate “choice and competition”. And that the co-op model can accomplish this goal.
However, what we really need to watch out for is that the public option doesn’t come back to life in the conferencing process, if/when the House and Senate bills are merged. You can be sure this is what liberals will be aggressively pushing for in the coming weeks and months. But in the meantime, savor the moment as frustrated liberals increasingly direct a certain term of disparagement at the President: “sellout”.
Update: This quote from DailyKos today is particularly choice:
But now we see team Obama for what it is: just a continuation of many of the policies of the Bush debacle and just another pig sucking at the tit of Wall Street and the insurance lobby.
We better INUNDATE our congress people with OUR progressive demands or else. If we lose this one and allow Obama to wipe his ass with public option and all of us that put him in the White House today, the Netroots will be revealed as a joke.
And another good one from Talking Points Memo:
If Obama abandons even his weak public option proposal then progressives need to kill the bill and come back in January unapologetically with the Medicare for All bill and insist Obama support it instead of engaging in yet another attempt to kowtow to the preferences of the most reactionary, greedy and unpatriotic forces in American politics. I have been disappointed far too many times already by Obama.
If he doesn’t even have the balls to stick to his own public option plan then I move from the deeply disappointed column to disgusted. Who exactly does he think elected him? I see no reason for the public or any progressive to support a moderate Republican President (which is what he’s turning out to be) who is so weak he cannot accomplish the one things he said “must” happen this year. They elected and expected a Democrat and look what they got. Another weak, cowardly, craven and calculating politician without the courage of what he says are his convictions.
The NutRoots are definitely not happy.
Update (John): Here’s relevant video from this morning’s John King show:
They have definitely backed off the public option. However, don’t think for a moment that they’ve given up. Remember, this was never more than a means to an end. If this means isn’t working, they’ll find one that will. My guess is that they’ll create the exchanges and co-ops in such a way that the government ends up controlling all of the “private plans” from top to bottom. But as Morgen said, the next steps will inevitably put the Democrats at war with one another. If we don’t see that, then something is up. We’ll have to dig up new video letting you know what they’re really up to this time. But for the moment, this looks like a loss for big government and big spending on a massive new entitlement which is a win for everyone.