Dare We Hope?

January 28th, 2010at 07:20am Posted by Eli

This is the most promising sign yet on healthcare reform:

House progressives organizing to rescue health care reform are pressuring their Senate counterparts to go back to the provision that has most energized the party and a majority of Americans throughout the debate: The public option.


They argued that the current bill before the House, which passed the Senate, lacks the votes needed to pass because pro-life Democrats don’t believe the abortion restrictions go far enough and progressive Democrats don’t like the lack of a public option, the weak affordability measures or the tax on private insurance. And nobody likes the Cornhusker Kickback, a provision won by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson that would cover the state’s Medicaid bills in perpetuity. Not even Nelson likes it anymore.

So, in order to move health care through the House, Democrats either need to pick up progressives or conservatives. And the budget reconciliation process does not lend itself to altering abortion language reform, because that wouldn’t have a direct, substantial impact on the budget.

That leaves progressives as the bloc available to pick up. Their demands — changes related to the tax on insurance, a Medicaid or Medicare expansion, and a public option — would likely be allowable using reconciliation. (The Senate parliamentarian would have the final say.)

Two House freshmen, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), circulated a letter, looking for signatures, that will be delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday on behalf of the plan, Polis told HuffPost.


If Reid and President Obama decide that the House Democrats have a workable plan — perhaps the only viable plan left, after the New York Times declared that the brakes had been slammed — they may be able to accomplish it.


Health care reform became less popular, Polis argued, when the public option was taken out but the requirement to buy private insurance or pay a fine remained.

“I think the fading of the public option from the Senate bill really hurt the Democrats’ prospects in the Senate [race], because they were seen as following the typical pattern of tax and spend and caving to insurance companies,” he said.

Pingree and Polis both noted that Obama’s focus on fiscal discipline and cutting spending makes the public option — which the Congressional Budget Office estimates could trim more than $100 billion from the deficit in ten years — that much more appealing.

It would also give Democrats something else to run on in 2010.

If House progressives stay strong and insist that the Senate use reconciliation to restore the public option (and hopefully remove the excise tax), then Obama’s desperation to claim victory on healthcare reform could put the Blue Dogs and Senate Democrats between Barack and a hard place.  This is really the only strategy that can make the public option happen, and they’re finally using their leverage to implement it.

If by some miracle the public option does return from the dead and gets passed by both houses as part of healthcare reform (and if the Democrats don’t get routed in November), the politician most responsible for that stunning victory would not be Obama, not Reid or Pelosi, and certainly not Rahm.  It would be Raul Grijalva, who has managed to stay strong and keep his caucus together on insisting on the public option (well, more or less).  Without him the House probably would have passed the Senate bill by now without a reconciliation sidecar to fix it, and their constituents would have absolutely hated them for it.

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Healthcare,Politics

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