Two Liberal Groups Target Obama Over His Position on Public Option
Updated 6:13 p.m.
By Dan Eggen
Two major liberal groups launched petition drives Thursday demanding that President Obama endorse a public-insurance option as part of his drive for health-care reform.
The efforts by MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee illustrate the widening fissures within the left over how to overhaul the nation's health-care system. Obama will address the issue in a prime-time speech to Congress next Wednesday.
Many Democrats and liberal groups have been alarmed by what they describe as signs of possible retreat by the White House on especially important issues, and they argue that jettisoning a public plan would amount to a betrayal of those who supported Obama's historic candidacy last year.
"We worked so hard for real change," the PCCC petition reads. "President Obama, please demand a strong public health insurance option in your speech to Congress. Letting the insurance companies win would not be change we can believe in."
PCCC spokesman Adam Green said the petition was sent to 150,000 supporters, who will also be encouraged to use Facebook and Twitter to broaden the effort and provide a direct connection to the White House.
The MoveOn petition says the group is "counting on your to fight for bold change on health care -- including a strong public health insurance option."
MoveOn.org, one of the nation's largest liberal advocacy groups, has about 5 million members.
The petitions are the latest sign of disaffection on the left with Obama, who has also faced criticism from progressive groups over White House policies on gays in the military and national security. Obama also faces concerted opposition on health care from Republicans and conservative groups, who have objected strongly to the public-insurance proposal and who have sponsored noisy protests during community meetings in the past month with congressional Democrats.
In announcing Obama's plans to speak directly to Congress, some administration officials have signaled that the president may soften his support for a public option or at least leave the door open to other proposals. Such hints have angered many on the left, who have come to view a public-insurance plan as the cornerstone of major reform.
MoveOn wrote in its message to members that Obama "is under immense pressure from conservatives in both parties -- and some advisers -- to drop" the public option.
This is not the first time that a Democrat has come under fire from the two groups, which also sponsored a recent ad campaign castigating Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). Green said the PCCC petition targeting the president will be joined by an ad campaign in coming days featuring ardent Obama supporters to "summon up the high energy and spirit of the 2008 campaign."
"We're directing that energy toward pressuring the White House to do the right thing and publicly demand the public option," Green said.
Posted at 3:20 PM ET on Sep 3, 2009
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