House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly told the press that she has the votes for a robust public option — but a report in The Politico contends she has now run into trouble:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi counted votes Thursday night and determined she could not pass a “robust public option” — the most aggressive of the three forms of a public option House Democrats have been considering as part of a national overhaul of health care.
Pelosi’s decision—coupled with a significant turn of events yesterday during a private White House meeting—points to an increasingly likely compromise for a “trigger” option for a government plan.
Administration officials have been telling POLITICO for weeks now that this the most likely compromise because it can probably satisfy liberals—albeit only reluctantly and after many vent frustration and some even threaten to walk away from the bill.
This would clear the way for backers to sneak a limited public option through the Senate by attracting moderate Democrats and then to win President Barack Obama’s signature.
Obama told Democratic leadership at the White House Thursday evening that his preference is for the trigger championed by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) – a plan that would allow a public plan to kick in if private insurers don’t expand coverage fast enough, a top administration official told POLITICO. It’s also sign Obama is interested in maintaining a sense of bipartisanship around the health reform plan.
The question is whether some Democrats want bipartisanship. There are now parts of both political parties that feel bipartisanship is a mistake since it waters down key principles, shows little sign working and is (they believe) a form of political surrender to their political enemies. Right now the GOP seems to be in danger of gobbling itself up as some conservatives seem poised to go after and purge their party of those deemed not 21st century conservative enough (since the new brand of 21st century conservatism is not to be confused with Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan 20th century conservatism).
If you follow Democratic discussion over the public option, it is becoming a litmus test now among some Democrats about who is a “real” Democrat. Basically, centrists and moderates are being disdained by some in each party, caught in a pincer that could end in a polarized America being even more polarized.
If Pelosi doesn’t find the votes and there is no vigorous public option, will some Democrats conclude that half a loaf is better than no loaf or will they prefer no loaf? The danger, then, would be that some voters will feel that they gave Democrats the keys to the Congress and the Democrats were…loafing.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.