Last year's health care debate was dominated by a bruising--and ultimately losing--fight over the public option. But simmering on the back burner for weeks while the public option ran its course has been a battle among Democrats over how to pay for health care reform. And now, with the public option swept into the dustbin, the fight over taxes has come to the fore, and is testing relationships all the way up the Democratic ladder to party leadership and the White House.
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At issue is whether expanding insurance coverage to over 30 million Americans should be paid for by wealthy Americans (as the House would like), or, as the Senate calls for, by people who have expensive health care plans--many of whom are middle class. The vast majority of House Democrats--and the public at large--oppose the Senate proposal. But the idea has one powerful ally: President Obama.
"The polling just hasn't moved an inch," Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) told me. Recent data indicates that the public opposes the Senate's so-called "Cadillac tax" plan by a two-to-one margin. "Frankly, it's the same polling that was there when Obama went after McCain on this."
According to Courtney many in the House believe that, after sacrificing the public option, Democrats should draw a line in the sand over the excise tax--including one Democratic leader.