Many liberals are hailing Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s decision to pick the opt-out version of the public option over the trigger as a progressive victory. Representative Lynn Woolsey, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus agrees--and thinks there’s no reason the House shouldn’t go even farther, and include a strong public option in its bill.
Of course, we already know the House bill will be stronger than even the version that Reid endorsed today. It will be a national plan, with all states participating from the start. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to decide whether to peg reimbursement levels to Medicare rates plus 5 percent--i.e. Medicare-plus-5--or to go with negotiated rates. Liberals prefer the former; centrists prefer the latter.
“I give [the Senate] a very positive nod for getting that far,” Woolsey told TNR this afternoon:
If the Senate can do that, the House is certain to have a public option and absolutely should be working as we can to have most robust public option available…it says to the House, ‘Don’t just go along to get along with the Senate.’ We need put out a plan that’s as strong as you can, so when we go to conference we get somewhere.
Woosley acknowledged that conference committee negotiations will inevitably pull the House bill back to the right. But she suggested that the hybrid that conference negotiations produce could still have more liberal features--it could be, for example, a national plan with Medicare-plus-5 rates from states could opt out. So why not be pushing left?
“Why should we be going backwards," she said, "when we should be going forward?”
Suzy Khimm is a senior editor at The New Republic.