The administration is backing away from the public option as a condition of any new health care plan. In fact, you could say they’re running away from it at a fairly rapid pace.
President Barack Obama and his top aides are signaling that they’re prepared to drop a government insurance option from a final health reform deal if that’s what’s needed to strike a compromise on Obama’s top legislative priority.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that the public option was “not the essential element” of the overhaul. A day earlier, Obama downplayed the public option during a Colorado town hall meeting, saying it was “just one sliver” of the debate.
He even chided Democratic supporters and Republican critics for becoming “so fixated on this that they forget everything else” — a dig at some liberals in his own party who have made the public option the main rallying cry of the health reform debate.
At the same time, Sen.Kent Conrad(D-N.D.), one of six senators involved in bipartisan Finance Committee negotiations, all but declared the public option dead in the Senate.
“Look, the fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the United States Senate for the public option,” said Conrad, who has pushed an alternative proposal to create a network of consumer cooperatives. “There never have been. So to continue to chase that rabbit, I think, is just a wasted effort.”
It will not come as a surprise to you to hear that the liberal blogosphere is going ballistic over this one. The left has been driving the discussion to date and so far has managed to reel the policy debate and bills making their way through Congress back towards their philosophy. I wouldn’t count them out yet.
I think it might end up as questionable as to whether Obama gets any bill at all. Right now, he appears to have lost the August debate about his plans and is in danger of seeing something produced that doesn’t appeal to anyone. He’s spent a lot of political capital on what might end up being nothing much more than symbolic. It’s entirely possible that the left throws in the towel rather than accepting a health care bill that comes nowhere near their expectations.
They may well ask why with absolute control of the votes the Congress and administration don’t force the issue. It’s a valid question and one that the leaders of the party will have a hard time answering.