Sunday, October 4, 2009

Behind the Scenes Obama Pushes the Public Option

It seems there was a method to Pelosi's latest public option madness aside from her rather obvious attempt to whip her Blue Dogs into line. A report in today's Chicago Tribune  reveals Obama's extensive behind-the-scenes machinations to ensure some version of the government health insurance plan is included in the Senate bill. Despite repeated claims the government option, or public option, was not integral to Obama's   vision of health care reform, the revelation of his private efforts could betray Obama's hidden agenda that would come as no surprise to conservative critics:

Clip via Naked Emperor News

Obama's efforts to include a public option in the final bill appear to be rather extensive according to the report in Chicago Tribune:
But now, senior administration officials are holding private meetings almost daily at the Capitol with senior Democratic staff to discuss ways to include a version of the public plan in the health care bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to bring to the Senate floor later this month, according to senior Democratic congressional aides.

Among those regularly in the meetings are Obama's top health care adviser, Nancy-Ann DeParle, aides to Reid, and Senate finance and health committee staff, both of which developed health care bills.

At the same time, Obama has been reaching out personally to rank-and-file Senate Democrats, telephoning more than a dozen lawmakers in the last week to press the case for action.

Portions of the Tribune report read as more of an effort to bolster support for the administration among its liberal base who have been critical of Obama's seeming lack of support for a government option. The report portrays Obama as much more of a hands-on leader again countering liberal criticism his aloof approach has doomed the beloved public option:

The White House initiative, unfolding largely out of public view, follows months in which the president appeared to defer to senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill as they labored to put together gargantuan health care bills.

It also marks a critical test of Obama's command of the inside game in Washington in which deals are struck behind closed doors and wavering lawmakers are cajoled and pressured into supporting major legislation.

"The challenge is to go to the (Senate) floor, hold the deal," said Steve Elmendorf, a lobbyist who was chief of staff to former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt. But "they are more involved than people think. They have a plan and a strategy, and they know what they want to get and they work with people to get it."

There can be no doubt the President would gladly include a government insurance program if he felt he was able to pass legislation with some version included. Deals with industry execs such as PhRMA and the American Hospital Association have been reported to be contingent upon final legislation being passed without a government program, however. It is not out of the realm of possibility the administration would weasel from those deals at the 11th hour leaving the health care industry little or no time to rally a campaign against the reform. Securing the moderate votes to pass a public option is the real hurdle that will only become increasingly difficult as gubernatorial elections loom, however. It is likely the White House strategy may include an effort to persuade liberals Obama is pulling out all stops to get them what they want. When a public option is dropped completely off the legislation at the last minute in order to gain votes to pass a bill, Pelosi and Obama will be exonerated by their base as having given it their best efforts.

The Trib report also mentions the Kaiser Foundation survey showing 58% support among the public for a government insurance program. This study largely shows how polls are influenced by arguments for and against a Medicare type program. It is unlikely such a study would be influential in the final votes of key Senate and House moderates decisions. Nevertheless, the administration that declared it would be the most transparent in the history of man or something, can have any number of tricks in store before the final vote is taken. Until such time, conservatives would be advised to keep the pressure on the moderates, Obama certainly is.

H/T: Memeorandum


  1. I'm not surprised.  When do politicians ever say what they mean.  

  2. LOL, you're right Brooke, it is like interpreting Greek to figure out what they really mean. 


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