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There's no question that President Obama wants and supports a public health insurance option as a component of health care reform legislation. But, as congressional Democrats struggle to secure the votes needed to pass reform with a public option, will the White House make the provision a baseline requirement? Progressives worry, and moderates hope, that Obama will accept a softer compromise, such as Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe's proposed "trigger," which would implement a public option only if the insurance industry does not meet certain long-term goals.

The White House is looking for a political victory on health care, and if a public option looks unlikely or impossible to pass, Obama is unlikely to waste political capital on it. But his support may be the deciding factor. The White House blog insists that the administration backs Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid's public option push, but not everyone sees action behind the words.


  • You Call That 'Support,' Obama?  Liberal blogger Adam Green notes "the multiple-sourced news stories about the White House not lifting a finger to help Reid." Green scoffs at Obama's so-called support, channeling the progressive line that Obama should do more. "Expressing a preference for the public option is not the same as fighting for the public option. Telling Harry Reid 'good luck with that' is not the same as the president saying, 'I am there helping Reid fight for those final votes.'"
  • Uncertainty and Caution From White House  The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn reports that Congressional Dems appreciate the support, "But they feel like President Obama could be doing more to help them, with one senior staffer telling TNR on Sunday that the leadership would like, but has yet to receive, a clear 'signal' of support for their effort." Cohn writes. "The administration responded by stating, clearly, it was not trying to undercut the Senate leadership. But it still did not go out of its way to support the opt-out--something the Senate leadership noticed, according to the senior staffer. [...] So [Obama]'s being careful--more careful, in fact, than some of his Senate allies would like."
  • Debate Can't Happen Without White House  Washington Post health care blogger Ezra Klein shares Congress's exasperation with White House dithering. "If the White House wants to advocate for the trigger, fine. If the White House wants to advocate for the public option, fine. But for the White House to host one meeting where they signal that they're uncomfortable with Reid's decision to push the envelope on the public option and then make a big effort to walk that meeting back after the left gets angry is confusing everybody," he write. "But since the administration is considered the most important actor here, no one knows quite how to structure their strategy so long as the White House refuses to fully show its cards."
  • If Congress Has Votes, Obama Will Back  Steve Benen insists that when the votes fall in line, so will Obama. "I don't think it's a substantive reluctance -- this doesn't seem to be a case in which the president actually prefers a trigger to the public option with the opt-out. It's entirely about pragmatism and vote-counting -- the White House isn't at all convinced the votes will be there for the better bill when push comes to shove," writes Benen, liberal blogger for Washington Monthly. "That said, as of yesterday, the president's team seems to be offering unequivocal support for Reid's preferred approach, which will no doubt be welcome news on the Hill."
  • Snowe's Trigger Is Dead  Ezra Klein delivers the post-mortem. "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."

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