I just got off the phone with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)–co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His takeaway from the speech was pretty simple: Though the President didn’t go all the way on the public option, the fact that he addressed and endorsed it means the fight for the public option will live another day.
“It was very encouraging,” Grijalva said. “Obviously our policy point is the public plan and I thought the President dealt with it. He didn’t get into a lot of specificity of what he does support and doesn’t support.”
In an official statement, which I’ve pasted below, Grijalva said “the President needs to be more direct on what the public option means and what it will do for the American people.”Grijalva’s bar was admittedly pretty low: “The fact that the public plan was not thrown under the bus keeps our expectations that we’ll be able to work with at least the House leadership to pass a strong public plan,” Grijalva said.
“If he would have mentioned nothing of a public role in health care it would have made our effort much, much more difficult,” Grijalva added. “Going in we really didn’t know what the President would do.”
As I reported earlier today, a planned meeting between House liberals and Obama scheduled for yesterday never happened
Noted Grijalva: “The fact that he didn’t mention triggers is encouraging. the fact that he didn’t mention co-ops is encouraging.” (The President did not use either the word trigger or the word co-op, but he did allude to both policy proposals)
Ultimately, though, Grijalva gave the speech a fairly positive review–he said that it will allow a strong press for the public option to continue.
“I am pleased that President Obama made the right choice to recognize the importance of a public option as part of the health care reform legislation.
“A public option is the most effective way to achieve our goals of controlling costs, eliminating abuses of patients by insurance company abuses, and providing quality health care to all.
“However, the President needs to be more direct on what the public option means and what it will do for the American people.
“President Obama was elected to bring change and progress. I fear that if my party and the President do not appreciate the mandate the American people have given us, the people will lose confidence in the idea that they can vote for change and get what they voted for.
“We in the majority must have the courage to do what is in our power to do, and pass a bill that guarantees access to affordable, quality health care.
“Doing nothing is not an option. That is why I oppose efforts to delay and kill real reform with a so-called “trigger”. We cannot wait and just hope that the insurance companies will develop a conscience.
“The defenders of the way things are want to diminish and destroy the public option because they fear it will be effective. A national insurance plan would have the bargaining power to get lower drug prices and better deals with health providers.
“We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies’ good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive healthcare that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality. Health insurance reform is an investment in our future that we cannot afford not to make.”