House Progressives and the White House on a Collision Course Over Public Option

September 3, 2009 1:34 pm

Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are laying down a new mark. Though President Obama appears to be laying the groundwork to scrap the public option, and progressives are pessimistic about his upcoming health care speech before Congress, the CPC is digging in on its earlier vow to block health care legislation that does not include a public option, setting the stage for a potential rift in the Democratic party.

“We look forward to meeting with you regarding retaining a robust public option in any final health reform bill and request that that meeting take place as soon as possible,” they wrote in a letter to Obama today. “Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, a public option built on the Medicare provider system and with reimbursement based on Medicare rates–not negotiated rates–is unacceptable.”

A health reform bill without a robust public option will not achieve the health reform this country so desperately needs. We cannot vote for anything less.

We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the importance of your support for a robust public plan, which we encourage you to reiterate in your address to the Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday.

You can read the entire letter here.

Though the House Ways and Means Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee passed health care legislation that included a public option modeled on Medicare, the Energy and Commerce committee ultimately endorsed a plan that does not–Grijalva and Woolsey want that compromise undone.

The White House declined to comment for this story.

Though the situation is evidently very fluid, most public signs indicate that the White House is not going to call for health care reform legislation to include a public option–an omission that, at this point, would signal a general retreat from the idea.

However, House progressives and liberal interest groups alike are doing whatever they can in the interim to pressure Obama to buck internal pressure and come out strongly for a public plan–but that advocacy could set the stage for a bitter tussle if, in the end, he ignores their entreaties.

It will be interesting to see whether Grijalva and Woolsey’s request for a meeting with the President is honored. Stay tuned.

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