Sources: Expect Disappointed Progressives After Obama’s Big Health Care Speech

September 3, 2009 8:44 a.m.

Late last night, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)–a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus–issued a press release saying he had “grave concerns” that the White House is telling pro-reform groups that they will “cease supporting” the public option.

Though I can not confirm Grijalva’s specific claim entirely, after a number of off-the-record conversations with congressional and advocacy sources, it’s clear that many progressives are preparing themselves to be disappointed next week.

Low-level White House officials have reached out to certain reform groups that have staked their ground on the need for a public option, I’m told, and warned them not to spend any more money advocating for the policy–that it’s just not worth it. That suggestion hasn’t been heeded–at least for now. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Democracy for America raised over $100,000 to continue running this ad in Iowa after Congress returns from recess.But a White House official told the New York Times “It’s so important to get a deal [that Obama] will do almost anything it takes to get one,” which strikes some as an all-too-apt description of the White House’s mentality.

Many believe that the administration–reportedly in fevered negotiations with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)–will put their efforts into securing a health care reform bill that calls for a public option as a fallback–to be triggered at a later date if and only if private insurers don’t manage to rein in premium prices on their own.

House progressives have vowed to oppose such a scheme and some are renewing their insistence that they won’t accept such a compromise.

If that effort fails, the thinking is that the “reconciliation” option–which circumvents a filibuster, and could allow Congress to enact a fairly robust public plan–could still be in play.

That said, the process is still very fluid, and much still hinges on what happens in the days leading up to the President’s landmark health care address before Congress next week.

The leader of one major reform group said that they have received absolutely no communications whatsoever from the White House regarding the content of the President’s speech or anything that would indicate from them a change in their position on the public option.

But that appears, for now, to be the optimistic take.

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