Catching us up, WaPo has a fairly comprehensive story today on the state of healthcare reform, all within the the frame of astonishment that the most popular piece of of the legislation, the piece trumpeted by the vast majority of Democrats and the White House, remains in the bill. Go figure.
Here are the most interesting nuggets:
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) sought support Friday for expansive versions of the public option as they prepared to send reform legislation to the Senate and House floors. Their goal is to pass bills with similar versions of the public insurance option so that final talks between the two chambers can focus on other issues that could prove more difficult to resolve....
On Friday, congressional leaders marveled at how quickly the landscape has changed. "This is an exact quote: 'Off the table,' " House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.) said, recalling the headlines earlier this month when the Senate Finance Committee rejected two versions of the public option in its reform bill.
Clyburn said the debate is no longer whether to include a public option, but "whether or not we will get this form of a public option or that form of a public option." Since the talk of "death panels" at town-hall meetings in August, Clyburn said, the political climate has changed as voters have come to understand "that all of this foolishness was just that -- foolishness. Nobody wants to pull the plug on Grandma."
The House Progressive Caucus held the line, backed up by a massive activist effort, and kept not just the public option, but a robust public option alive. That Pelosi and Reid are talking about having similar provisions in the two bills means that the dynamics are entirely in favor of the public option. I think, as BooMan argues in his cogent diary, that the White House probably never thought the Senate bill to have a public option, and have been acting under the presumption that it would have to be added in conference. However, it seems now that the time is right for the White House to shift negotiating tactics and start bringing in strays, like early Obama primary supporter Ben Nelson, to get that public option in the Senate bill. Having a public option in both bills going into conference makes the probability that it will emerge as strong as possible even more likely. That should be the new goalpost. More on that:
Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), a moderate Democrat, said she still opposes a national plan financed by the federal government but would consider other permutations of a public plan, including a provision Reid is circulating to establish an "opt-out" clause for states that don't want to participate. "There is a way to compromise this, I believe," she said. "The goal is not public or private. The goal is choice and affordability."
After Landrieu's bizarre talk this week of free lunches and how a public option would bankrupt the country, this is significant movement. With reports that Reid is just one or two votes shy of the public option opt out, the field can probably be safely narrowed down to a handful of Senators: Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Max Baucus, Evan Bayh. Would any of them be willing to be the Senator that killed healthcare reform? Reid might be at the point of trying to force their hand to find out.
Now back to the WaPo story:
Reid's original inclination was to leave the public option out of a final bill he is writing from measures passed by the finance and health committees. But his liberal colleagues began urging him two weeks ago to reconsider, after insurance industry forecasts that premiums would rise sharply under the Finance Committee bill, which lacked a public option. The report had the effect of prodding Democrats to look for better ways to control costs, and the public option -- strongly opposed by the insurance industry -- reemerged as a possible solution.
AHIP's power play, the ridiculous PWC cherry-picked report, bit them in the butt and galvanized Democrats.
Now on to the triggers:
The Democratic leader pitched the opt-out idea to Obama at a White House meeting Thursday night and received a noncommittal response. Several senior Democratic sources said Obama is wary about alienating Snowe -- the only Republican so far to support a Democratic health-care measure -- and had already concluded that her plan for a "trigger" that would create a public option if private insurers don't offer affordable rates represented a satisfactory compromise.
Yes, more anonymous sources but all with the same story. Which should tell us that someone in the White House wants triggers. The re-emergence of the trigger, which had been basically left for dead when all the talk of opt out began, means that there is a strong constituency for it pushing it in the Senate. If you can believe Greg Sargent, it's very much alive in the Senate, even though Reid has been talking most frequently about the opt out public option, and seems to have settled on trying to push it.
But the trigger appears to still be a threat, and our response as activists should be to speak out against it. To echo what Jed wrote yesterday:
Still, even though we don't know the final outcome, there is a lot that we do know, including:
- The Snowe Trigger isn't the public option nor is it a form of it. Politicians who support it have every right to do so, but if they are doing it to appease progressives, they are making a huge mistake. Not only will they be opposing the public option, they will insulting our intelligence.
- Most Americans support the public option, and they want health care reform to include it, even if that means no Republican support.
- The insurance industry hates the public option and would do anything to kill it.
- Congressional leadership and the Obama administration both support the public option, but there is a clear willingness to drop the public option in favor of the Snowe Trigger if that's what it takes to declare "Mission Accomplished."
Once you take stock of these basic facts, it becomes apparent that despite the flurry of noise today, nothing much has changed. We're still in the middle of the biggest legislative battle in ages, and the only way we're going to win it is by continuing to make sure our voices are heard....
Unfortunately, it is still apparent that there are some in leadership who believe we will accept something like the Snowe Trigger as a substitute. Our next task is to disabuse them of that notion.
The Snowe Trigger is not a substitute for a public option. Harry Reid needs to hear that, Nancy Pelosi needs to hear that (though I don't think we really need to convince her), and everyone in the White House needs to hear that.