Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Obama Kills the Public Option... AGAIN.

So, thanks to the hard work of some progressive groups and certain highly endangered Democratic Congressmen, a drive began to get the public option- a government-run insurance alternative to private, for-profit insurance plans- a new vote in Congress.

The main stumbling block, of course, is the Senate- and even there a letter pledging to support a vote on the public option using majority-vote reconciliation rules (rather than the filibuster standard of three-fifths majority) was slowly gaining ground. Yesterday the letter gained its 23rd signatory, with only two Democratic senators- Tom Carper of Delaware and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia- declaring their opposition.

And then White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said this: "We have seen obviously that though there are some that are supportive of this, there isn't enough political support in a majority to get this through . . . The president . . . took the Senate bill as the base and looks forward to discussing consensus ideas on Thursday."

So, in short, Obama wants the public option taken off the table- for good, this time.

Think I'm being pessimistic? Look closely at what Gibbs said again. There are some that are supportive of this... This is not the same at all as We support this or We'd like to see this. In fact, it's the exact opposite: the invariable follow-up to Some people support this... is, ...but I don't.

This is the third time Obama has killed anything resembling a public option. The first time, he scuttled a Senate compromise bill which would have had a public option that individual states could opt out of. The second time, he ordered Harry Reid to obey Joe Lieberman and scrap plans for a Medicare buy-in for people younger than 65 and non-profit insurance plans operated by for-profit insurance corporations. By now, it should be obvious to anybody paying attention that Obama does not just believe the public option is tactically unsound: he wants it dead, dead, dead.

Reactions, from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

The White House clearly played a role facilitating the on-going discussions between the House and Senate Democrats. They pounced on the Anthem health insurance hike in California. And they've done a pretty decent job boxing in the Republicans in this dance of bipartisanship over the last few weeks. Fundamentally though, it seems like the White House did hang back and was unwilling to commit itself in any serious ways until the chances of a victory seemed strong. They did not want to take a hit if another attempt failed.

And from Nate Silver at, who also wants the public option to die:

What's reasonably clear is that the Democrats were quite a ways away from having 50 firm commitments to the public option. How close they could have gotten if Obama and Harry Reid had done everything in their power to whip the votes for it, we don't know. Instead, it's been pretty obvious, from the reporting of people like Ezra Klein and Jonathan Cohn, that the White House regarded the latest reincarnation of public option as a nuisance that they hoped would go away.

My personal reaction is much, much simpler:

Whatever happened to, "Yes We Can"?

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