Brown to White House: “Congress is Writing the Bill, the President’s Not”

September 3, 2009 2:12 p.m.

Despite several indications that the White House will ultimately not go to bat for a public option, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says he’s seen no signs that the White House will change course–but if they do, he’s not budging.

“I know that the White House is debating it internally,” Brown said in an interview with TPMDC. “But Congress is writing the bill, the President’s not.”

“The White House should not take progressives for granted,” an animated Brown told me. “It’s not just the conservatives he needs to be in the fold. It’s the progressives who’ve been in the vineyards fighting for reform for years.”As co-author of the public option provision in the Senate HELP Committee’s health care bill, Brown is one of the Senate’s strongest advocates of the public option. But he still leaves open the possibility that he’d vote for a bill without a public option in it.

“[I]’m not going to say I will not support it if it doesn’t have [a public option],” Brown said. “It’s not the only thing that matters in this bill. Guaranteed issue is a very important…. insurance reform is very important.”

“The most important thing is the public option,” Brown said. “I don’t know for sure if I would support it with out a public option but it would be hard to get there…. We’re not going through this to write some namby pamby bill so we can check a box and say we did health care reform.”

The White House is considering a number of ways to pass health care reform, but, according to one official, are concerned about striking a deal above all else–and that may entail maintaining an uneasy alliance with major health care industry stakeholders.

“If the insurance companies are satisfied with this bill it’s not a good bill,” Brown said. “It’s clear that if the major interest groups line up for this bill it’s not doing what it’s supposed to go.”

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