Shift on Public Option Changes Terms of Health Debate
By Ben Pershing
So far in August, coverage of the health-care fight has focused mostly on process and politics over policy, and tactics over strategy. But the headline news from this weekend wasn't about a town hall meeting. It wasn't about protesters, astroturf or ad campaigns. It was about a substantive change in the debate over reform, one that may help President Obama on one ideological flank just as much as it hurts him on the other.
Obama and Kathleen Sebelius both signaled this weekend that the White House would be willing to live with a compromised package that does not include a public insurance option. Obama on Saturday called the public option "just one sliver" of the debate, while Sebelius said Sunday it was not an "essential element" of reform. David Axelrod said later Sunday that Obama believed the public option was still "the best way to go," and Linda Douglass claimed that "nothing has changed" in the White House's position. Marc Ambinder has one administration official saying Sebelius "misspoke," and another saying she didn't, but "the media misplayed it."
Whatever the case, liberals are worried. Jay Rockefeller insisted Sunday that including a public option was "a must," and Nancy Pelosi has previously vowed that whatever bill passes the House will include a "robust" public plan. Liberal activists at the Netroots Nation conference said they feared the Democratic party is tilting toward moderates. A blogger at Firedoglake asks sarcastically, "Hooray! Now all the Teabaggers will go home and tons of Republicans will get on board with health care reform, right?"
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Posted at 8:30 AM ET on Aug 17, 2009
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