Obama Eases the Way for a Public Option

Behind the scenes, the president is quietly trying to win over moderate Democrats to push the reform

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The public option, a health care reform provision for a government-run insurance option, has been beleaguered and at apparent risk of not making it through the Senate. But that could change as Obama quietly leads "an intensifying behind-the-scenes campaign to get divided Senate Democrats to take up some version of the idea in the weeks just ahead," the Chicago Tribune reports. Surprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a figure little loved by the left, is emerging as perhaps the White House's closest ally. Can Obama succeed in privately shifting the Senate to secure a public option?

  • Will Obama Finally Deliver?  Steve Benen praises Democratic leaders for finally getting serious. "At this point, I was more or less expecting Democratic leaders to start lowering expectations, and preparing the party base for a letdown on the public option," he writes. "Instead, most of the rhetoric seems to be pointing in the other direction, and the reported efforts of the leadership and the White House is no doubt contributing to the Democratic centrists who now seem less willing to break ranks. But it's still wise to temper one's enthusiasm. For one thing, the distance between here and the finish line is still pretty long."
  • Moderate Dems Cede to Obama  Greg Sargent explains why moderate Democrats, once the biggest hurdle to a public option, may be easing resistance. "With the public option still polling well, no Dems want to be blamed for its demise, and Senate Dems -- mindful that they'll take it on the chin if it's not included -- are handing some responsibility to the White House to signal the way forward," he writes. "So Senate Dems are in effect saying to Obama: 'Tell us what to do. It's your call.'"
  • Harry Reid Taking Charge  Greg Sargent notes that Sen. Reid, typically reticent, is leading the Senate push. "Reid is increasingly attaching himself to the notion that the public option will survive and taking direct responsibility for its inclusion." Sargent adds, "In a curious twist, Harry Reid is more heavily identified than the White House is right now with the push for the public option. While Reid is publicly insisting that some form of it will survive, Robert Gibbs couldn't bring himself to say at yesterday's press briefing that the administration is pushing for its inclusion."
  • Senate Shouldn't Add Public Option--Yet  Igor Volsky argues that Reid's campaign to include a public option in the Senate's health care bill will actually make the public option tougher to get. "The public plan has become a political wedge issue. Republicans have staked their entire opposition to reform on the public plan, effectively shutting out any meaningful discussion about affordability or insurance regulations." If the Senate debates a reform bill with a public option, it will likely be weakened substantially. But waiting to add it until conference--when the House and Senate come together to vote on a final bill--would allow Democrats to introduce a stronger version.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.