Monday, August 17, 2009

mcjoan: "Pelosi Maintains House Support for Public Option " (with video)

The Senate likes to think it's the only game in town, and Kent Conrad likes to think that his is the only vote that matters, but there's another chamber and another congressional leader who holds quite a few cards.
Nancy Pelosi reminded the White House of that today with this statement obtained by Greg Sargent.

"As the President stated in March, ‘The thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices and it helps keep the private sector honest, because there’s some competition out there.’

"We agree with the President that a public option will keep insurance companies honest and increase competition.

"There is strong support in the House for a public option. In the House, all three of our bills contain a public option as does the bill from the Senate HELP Committee.

"A public option is the best option to lower costs, improve the quality of health care, ensure choice and expand coverage.

"The public option brings real reform to lower costs over the 10 year period of the bill."

Pelosi has the numbers behind her statement. To date, at least 64 members have made the pledge: no public option, no yes vote. CPC chair Rep. Raul Grijalva reiterated that as well in a statement today (via e-mail):

"The public option is central to healthcare reform. Real reform, which lowers costs and ensures all Americans get the quality, affordable healthcare that they deserve, cannot be accomplished without a robust public option. As we have stated repeatedly for months now, a majority of the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will oppose any healthcare reform legislation that does not include a robust public option. Our position has not, and will not, change. As Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop comprehensive legislation that allows all Americans to choose the healthcare plan that’s right for them and their families. But I will not support any bill that does not include a public option."

The number of members who will not support a bill without it is actually more like 100, if you can believe Rep. Anthony Weiner (via FDL):

WEINER: The President does seem like he's moving away from the public plan, and if he does, he's not going to pass a bill. Because there are just too many people in Washington who believe that the public plan was the only way that you effectively bring some downward pressure on prices, and if he says well we're not going to have that, then I'm not really quite sure what we're dong here.

BECKY QUICK: So you would not vote for a bill that made it through, if it got through...

WEINER: Not only I but I think there's probably a hundred members of the House, who believe for various reasons that you need to have something to bring down prices. Otherwise you're basically, what you're doing, you're keeping the cost arc. . . the CBO agrees with that. You know as it was, I think the public plan had been watered down so much. So if the President thinks he's cutting a deal to get Senate votes, he's probably losing House votes.

The House Progressives are becoming much more aggressive and vocal in their demands for the public option, and it's extremely significant that they have Nancy Pelosi backing them up with statements like the one above, reminding the White House that Kent Conrad and Max Baucus aren't the only Dems that need to be heeded. The House members need, as Greg says, to "Lay down their marker and refuse to budge." They've made a very good start on that.

Maybe a good enough start that some of the more progressive members in the Senate--and particularly those on Senate Finance (Rockefeller, Schumer, and Cantwell, who have all stated support for a public option) will torpedo the crappy Baucus/Conrad co-op plan.

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