As SmileySam and pronin2 have both diaried, an article in today's Roll Call emphasizes that the Progressive Block isn't bluffing (sub. req.) when it comes to their support of a public option.
The article focuses on the work Darcy Burner has been doing as executive director of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation to help the Progressive Caucus organize around the public option.
"We have never had the Progressive Caucus organized the way it is right now," Burner said during a Friday roundtable with Roll Call. "This is not the normal scenario. And Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] knows it."
The public insurance provision has sparked a game of rhetorical chicken between, on the one hand, liberals who have pegged it as essential and, on the other, moderate Democrats and some White House officials, who have called it a deal-killer in the Senate and diminished its importance to broader reform.
As an unusually contentious public debate over the reform drive has put Democrats on the defensive over the August recess, liberal leaders have been upping the ante on the public plan to beat back a building perception it would end up getting scrapped in conference negotiations.
Speaker Pelosi does indeed know that the Progressive Block is organized and prepared for a fight. House leadership has been adamant on teh fact that a bill won't pass the House without a public option, and has been working on reminding the entire caucus that the public option has huge support from the American public. Most recently they sent a memo to Democratic members summarizing recent polling.
The memo . . . is designed to arm Congressional Dems with ammo to beat back claims that the public option’s popularity has tanked.
"Coordinated attacks by Republicans and other opponents of health insurance reform have had little effect on the strong support for a public health insurance option," the memo reads.
It also includes this handy summary graph of recent polling. (Click to enlarge.) All this reinforces a great post from Chris today over at Open Left. He details all the reasons why it is possible to pass a non-co-op public option now: a) reconciliation would work to pass the bill; and, b) majorities in both branches of Congress support a public option. In the House, as the Roll Call article reminds us, there's a large enough Progressive Block to derail a bill without it.
It's popular with the American people, it's popular with the majority of Democrats in Congress. So if it doesn't happen, as Chris says, it's a political choice.
Here is the choice:
- Pass a public option in health care reform, either using reconciliation or convincing some Senators to vote for cloture even if they don't vote for the final bill. The methods required to do so will cause damage to the Democratic congressional leadership and Obama administration's attempts to look bipartisan. Private health insurance industry groups will likely severely hold back donations, and target quite a few "moderate" Democrats in swing or Republican-leaning districts.
- Don't pass a public option in health care reform, either by trying to force the progressive block to fold or by passing nothing at all. This will probably mean fewer uninsured people are provided insurance, and that health care costs neither stabilize nor reduce their share of GDP. Further, progressive grassroots blowback will be immense, at least by the standards of progressive grassroots blowback.
This is a choice. Democrats can pass a public option if they want to. If all goes awry, don't let Democrats tell you after the fact that they had no other options. Tell them that there was a viable path to the public option they could have followed, but they chose not to follow it for political reasons.
It's not just the DFH bloggers saying this, the NY Times editorial board agrees, saying "Democrats are thus well advised to start preparing to use an arcane parliamentary tactic known as 'budget reconciliation' that would let them sidestep a Republican filibuster and approve reform proposals by a simple majority."
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