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Why hasn't Olympia Snowe pulled the trigger?

boredrockefeller.JPG

“Historically, ‘trigger’ mechanisms have not been successful, and they are not a substitute for a strong public health insurance option,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller in a statement released today. “A ‘trigger’ simply delays price competition, which in turn will delay affordability for consumers and moves us farther away from the goals of health care reform." It's perhaps no surprise that Rockefeller has apparently told the leadership that he won't vote for a trigger option if it comes to the floor.

One of the reasons I assumed Olympia Snowe's trigger proposal was dead was, well, it looked dead. It was just lying there, unmoving. There were no meetings between Snowe and Schumer, or Snowe and Rockefeller, to try and craft a stronger trigger that would be acceptable to more liberal members. There were no modified proposals coming out of Snowe's office, or statements from her spokespeople indicating a willingness to entertain changes. The White House kicked around some ideas internally, but none of them, so far as I or my sources know (or at least will confirm), ever saw the light of day, or even a dark room on the Hill.

If the trigger is to have any chance, it's going to have to go through a process in which liberals get their hands on it and decide if there is any incarnation they could possibly like. You could have imagined that a month or two ago, but it's getting a bit late in the game. Now the trigger is vying with other mid-range proposals that liberals like better, ideas that largely emerged because the trigger never moved from being Snowe's personal compromise to an actual compromise, in which various factions had agreed to make certain concessions to one another.

Photo credit: Susan Walsh/AP.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 23, 2009; 5:38 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Comments

It's inconceivable that the majority of the majority party will consent to legislation dictated by a Republican. In a quixotic quest to get exactly one GOP vote (and possibly Mike Castle's in the House, as he now has to tack left in preparation for his Senate run), the administration is playing with dynamite.

Ezra, you're finally sensing the peril that all of us older folks have recognized for weeks, clear as a bell.

Posted by: scarlota | October 23, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Greg Sargent is reporting that the trigger is closer to 60 votes than the opt-out public option. But given that the Huffington Post says Reid is within 2 on the opt-out, that's a tiny window of comparison. Perhaps Reid thought he had 58, but then the White House's pro-trigger push eroded a few votes today.

Ezra, can you address why on earth Obama and his administration would be publicly saying he prefers a robust public option -- as recently as THIS VERY MORNING -- and then cut the legs out from under the people putting themselves on the line to accomplish that? According to TPM this afternoon, Pelosi seems to be giving up on Medicare +5% after today's events.

I just don't get why you voluntarily crush yesterday's momentum.

Posted by: cog145 | October 23, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Ezra: the WH thinks Snowe's Trigger will work because the Progressives in the Senate will lay back and take it rather than vote against the bill.

And they are probably right on that count. All it takes is *one* Democratic Senator to stand up and say that he will not vote for Cloture on any bill that has a trigger, and it will be dead. They won't.

They fear that if they do that, then Blanche or Bayh or Nelson will draw the same line in the sand on a Public Option in any form.

Well... they already have. "One or Two..."

And they're being allowed to get away with it, while Progressives are told to lay back and take it. "We're this close... we're almost there... any health care reform is better than none."

The White House knows this. Which is why they were happy to have Snowe still in the process to get rid of things they don't want and help enable to ConservaDems in the Senate and the Blue Dogs in the House.

Wonderful day of progress from the White House: two steps back and... two steps back. An amazing 180 from where we were on Thursday.

John

Posted by: toshiaki | October 23, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of what the entire Democratic base thinks, the trigger is on the march because the President of the United States says it's his preferred outcome.

And no, if you're wondering, Jello Jay won't filibuster the trigger.

Posted by: bmull | October 23, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse


it hardly matters what the liberals want, unless you are in san francisco.

i suspect the president is pushing the trigger because he knows that the supposed "momentum" for the public option is nothing but spin.

and even if you had 60 votes for some kind of public option, you are not going to have even a majority, in all likelihood, for any one given variation of it.

at the end of the day, liberals are going to have to decided whether they want to declare "mission accomplished" or go down with their ideological guns blazing.

Posted by: dummypants | October 23, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

This is one of those things where the White House in its statements has been pretty lukewarm towards the public option.

It may be that they want to give cover to some Senators from Well-Point, but it's just as plausible that there is some side deal that they've made along the lines of the Pharma industry. It's a shame that so-called fiscal conservatives in both parties are opposed to measures like the public option which actually save taxpayers and consumers money. This health care debate has pretty much put the lie to the notion that there is such a thing as "fiscal conservatism" -- at least within the GOP.

Posted by: JPRS | October 23, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

There are no fiscal conservatives. They're all willing to loot the government in their own ways for either their one states/districts (less so these days) or their corporate benafactors (far more now).

John

Posted by: toshiaki | October 23, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

The "trigger" is dead, Ezra. Olympia Snowe is not a player. The majority is not going to capitulate to a sell-out to the corporate insurance industry. And if you want to play poker, are you willing to bet that the ten Dem. senators are going to filibuster with the Rs and incur the wrath of the party, their caucus, the president, their campaign funding, and lose their chairmanships? So please stop it with this idea there has to be 60 votes to pass legislation. 60 votes for cloture, not to pass legislation.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | October 23, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm afraid I can't support a trigger either. It sounds like a nice idea, but I just don't trust congress to design a legit trigger; I think it will be a hair trigger...a fig leaf to get the votes which will immediately trigger a Public Option...which in 5-10 years will price out all private insurers leaving us with Single Payer. I'd even support Single Payer if I thought it would really bend the cost curve, but given our history I KNOW it will just morph into a wildly out of control entitlement program that will drive us into an economic death spiral.

Posted by: JohnR22 | October 24, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

The chief problem is that Rockefeller would want a trigger that would pull 100% of the time. Any situation where the trigger does not activate defeats the entire purpose.

As you yourself said on Youtube this is about setting up single payer in the future, a "sneaky strategy" were your exact words...

Posted by: gorak | October 24, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I just pulled the trigger for $50 on this Olympia Snowe ad:

http://www.actblue.com/page/obamafight

Posted by: akmakm | October 24, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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