Some Democrats Plan To Only Support Health Care Bill That Includes Public Option


By Leigh Ann Caldwell, NEWS JUNKIE POST Contributor

At a meeting of House Democrats Tuesday, Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) declared that progressive members will oppose a health reform bill that lacks a government-run public option. Fellow Democrats cheered and clapped in support of her statement.

Representative Woolsey was compelled to speak after White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, told the Wall Street Journal on July 7th that the administration is willing to compromise on the public option by instituting a “trigger.” The trigger would implement a public option if the insurance companies fail to lower costs and follow guidelines.

Representative Woolsey called Emmanuel’s statements a “trial balloon.” She said the Obama administration now knows where lawmakers stand.

Emanuel’s comments prompted progressives to send a letter to the White House drawing a line in the sand. The letter said they wanted to make it “crystal clear” that a trigger option is a “non-starter.”

“We’ve already compromised,” Woolsey said. “We want a single-payer. So we’ve compromised hugely to get to a strong public plan. So they can’t come to us and say ‘Oh you have to compromise too.’ No, we’ve done our compromising.”

Woolsey says that 50 members of the Progressive Caucus have taken the firm stance. If 50 members were to defect from the final health reform bill, Democratic Leadership would lack enough votes to pass legislation.

Representative Henry Waxman, Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the three committees tasked with writing health reform legislation, acknowledges that the House cannot pass health reform with out progressive members’ support.

“From their point of view, they’ve gone as far as they’re going to go. That’s why it would be very difficult to have a bill come to the house with out a public option,” Waxman says.

Republicans have expressed opposition to any public option.

Representative Howard McKeon, top Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, sees no room for compromise. He fears a future expansion of the public option to form a single payer plan. “I’m not going to support a public option because once you get that going….they can take every promise they’ve made to you and do whatever they want,” McKeon said.

In the Senate, the debate is also forming along ideological lines. The more moderate Democrats are leery of a public option while Republicans are opposed. But, like in the House, the more liberal block has enough support to override that caution. Sixteen Democrats signed a letter stating their desire for a public option. Democratic leaders and took notice.

Representative Woolsey said the progressives decided to hold firm because of the importance of reform. “We’re going to get one crack. This is our bill. We will not be able to afford it [again] so we do it now and figure out how to pay for it and bite the bullet,” she said.

The House hopes to pass health care legislation before they adjourn for the summer in August.