Reformers Want To Believe Obama On Public Option–But, Privately, Some Have Doubts

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After it became clear this morning that reformers were up in arms–or would soon be up in arms–about White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s suggestion that the President might be willing to support a triggered public option, Obama, still traveling in Russia issued a re-statement of his support for the public option to put out the fire. And by mid-day, reformers had largely cooled off. Privately, though, some acknowledge that the President’s statement isn’t actually a contradiction of Emanuel’s.

“It’s not a direct contradiction, no,” said one reformer. “But the President’s saying what he’s said all along, which is that he supports the public option, and in the end that’s what matters.”

Let’s go to the record, shall we?Emanuel told the Wall Street Journal that delaying the public option with a trigger mechanism might satisfy the President. And the President responded: “I am pleased by the progress we’re making on health care reform and still believe, as I’ve said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest. I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals.”

This is a restatement of Obama’s position: That he supports a public option, but that reform efforts must lower costs, expand options, and guarantee quality, and he’ll entertain any plan that accomplishes those goals. In other words, his goal is a plan that works. But that doesn’t go nearly so far as to say–as Sen. Chuck Schumer has said repeatedly–that he opposes a trigger.

In other words, the differences between Obama and Emanuel on the public option are largely rhetorical. But keep in mind, Emanuel’s done this before, very recently, and he always seems to spin in the same direction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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