Does Obama Prefer The Public Option?

by Jonathan Chait | February 23, 2010

Liberals who basically support the Obama administration's approach to health care have believed all along that it favors a public option, but isn't willing to sacrifice the whole bill in order to get it. Many left-wing critics have been slamming us as dupes, parroting the empty gestures of an administration in the pocket of the health insurance industry.

Today, Glenn Greenwald, writing in the New York Times, says a-ha!

[T]he plan President Obama unveiled does not include a public option. If he were truly in favor of it, why would he exclude it from his own plan?
That question is especially difficult to answer now that (a) it is widely assumed that the only way health care reform can pass the Senate is through the reconciliation process, which circumvents filibusters and thus requires only 50, rather than 60, votes for passage, and (b) numerous Democrat Senators support a public option through reconciliation.
It now seems obvious that White House’s claim of support for the public option was a pretense used to placate the progressive base (in fact, it seems committed to excluding the public option very likely because it would provide real competition to the health insurance industry and is thus vehemently opposed by the industry and its lobbyists).

The lying Obama administration has been exposed! Or perhaps not. Health care reform is still hanging on for dear life in the House. The dynamic is that the Democrats are going to lose some votes from pro-life members who insist on Bart Stupak's language. They need to make up the votes by persuading Blue Dog and other centrist Democrats who voted no for the original bill to vote yes this time. Many of those centrists said at the time of their original vote that they preferred the Senate bill and opposed the public option. Restoring the public option, aside form sucking up a lot of time by introducing another big fight, would greatly complicate this already-complicated task.

That's why Jay Rockefeller opposes adding the public option to the bill at this point. Rockefeller is the author of the public option. So it seems like the fear that reopening this debate will sink the whole bill really is the reason for the administration's reluctance. Or maybe Rockefeller's in on the pretense, too.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/does-obama-prefer-the-public-option