Wednesday, September 2, 2009

White House To Base, "Public Option STILL Not Important"

Aides to President Barack Obama are putting the final touches on a new strategy to help Democrats recover from a brutal August recess by specifying what Obama wants to see in a compromise health care deal and directly confronting other trouble spots, West Wing officials tell POLITICO.

Obama is considering detailing his health-care demands in a major speech as soon as next week, when Congress returns from the August recess. And although House leaders have said their members will demand the inclusion of a public insurance option, Obama has no plans to insist on it himself, the officials said.

“We’re entering a new season,” senior adviser David Axelrod said in a telephone interview. “It’s time to synthesize and harmonize these strands and get this done. We’re confident that we can do that. But obviously it is a different phase. We’re going to approach it in a different way. The president is going to be very active.” [...]

On health care, Obama’s willingness to forgo the public option is sure to anger his party’s liberal base. But some administration officials welcome a showdown with liberal lawmakers if they argue they would rather have no health care law than an incremental one. The confrontation would allow Obama to show he is willing to stare down his own party to get things done.

“We have been saying all along that the most important part of this debate is not the public option, but rather ensuring choice and competition,” an aide said. “There are lots of different ways to get there.”

If he gets specific on the issues of insurance regulations and the level of subsidies for the uninsured and an overall price tag and a mechanism to pay for it and a level of income that cannot be taxed, and only "prefers" a public option, people will take notice. It makes sense to have a very specific bill, but hanging the one element that has excited the base out to dry will just intensify anger toward the President. It's not just bad policy, it's bad politics. The base is very dispirited right now, and they'll be the ones out there advocating for a reform bill to the Congress......

He has time to think about what he wants out of his Presidency. I don't think his slogan was "any bill we can believe in." A firm commitment to every piece of reform except the mechanism to lower insurance costs will make people LESS excited about selling his plan, not more. He needs to understand this. We're not in a triangulating phase anymore.

Time to let the White House know.

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