Progressives double down on public option

Progressive Congressional Caucus co-chairs Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, today urging her not to take their 82-member caucus — which also includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; George Miller, D-Martinez; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose — for granted as the health care reform debate moves forward.

Woolsey and Grijalva apparently took umbrage at Pelosi’s quote in a Washington Post article yesterday:

But the rebellion from fiscal conservatives on the Energy and Commerce Committee last week served as a political wake-up call for Democratic leaders. With enough votes on the panel and on the floor to sink reform legislation, the Blue Dog Coalition forced Pelosi and Emanuel into concessions that made the government plan similar to private health insurance, sparking a new fight with House liberals.

Sensing that the Blue Dogs had dug in for a prolonged fight, Pelosi and Emanuel gave in to most demands in order to get the legislation moving again. They essentially decided that it was better to pick a fight with their liberal flank, where Pelosi remains popular and where loyalty to Obama is strongest, particularly in the Congressional Black Caucus.

Despite threats from almost 60 progressive House Democrats — who outnumber the Blue Dogs — Pelosi defended the compromise, saying it was similar to one backed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). Pelosi predicted that the liberal wing would fall in line because the legislation is so important to them.

“Are you asking me, ‘Are the progressives going to take down universal, quality, affordable health care for all Americans?’ I don’t think so,” Pelosi told reporters Friday, breaking into laughter at the question.

It’s no laughing matter, Woolsey and Grijalva wrote in their letter today.

We want to assure you that our continued support is contingent on a robust public plan, similar to what was reported out ofthe Committees on Ways and Means and Education and Labor. Those two committees outline a plan that brings down costs and improves quality, access, and competition. Furthermore, the subsidies included in these bills must be restored, because without these subsidies, health insurance access for many low and middle income families will be effectively cut off. The final bill brought to the House Floor must include these provisions or we will oppose the bill.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    To paraphrase the old Whig leaders: The “progressive” caucus would Rather Be Left than useful. The real fight over healthcare coverage will be in the Senate and conference committees.

  • Elwood

    Who cares?

    The Obama health care plan is a dead, stinking fish rapidly circling the drain.

    When the Congress returns from break, they will have gotten an earful of what people think of the plan, word will have leaked out of the various socialist (or worse) provisions and it will go the way of Hillary’s health plan.

    Remember that?