Infighting Among Dems On Health Care Reform
Infighting among Democrats over inclusion of a public plan in health care reform is turning disagreement between moderates and liberals into a "Democratic civil war" with outside groups taking part in the attacks, Politico reports.
"When Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., called the public plan a deal breaker, a progressive group co-founded by Joe Trippi launched a campaign in Nebraska accusing the senator of being a 'sellout' for special interests. After a strategy memo by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way cautioned Democrats on overreaching on a public plan, Daily Kos bloggers went on the attack, and Third Way now faces an effort by the Trippi group, Change Congress, to pressure Third Way donors. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, is the next target. On Tuesday, she said she opposed the public plan. By Wednesday, the liberal Health Care for America Now was drawing up a plan to change her mind."
Democrats could pass reform with 51 votes in the Senate using the reconciliation process, but public plan-supporting Democrats are taking steps to get moderates in order and President Obama is traveling to Wisconsin and Chicago to push the public plan. Liberal groups have attempted to persuade some Democratic senators, including Nelson, into supporting the plan by spending money on mailing and Internet advertisements.
Politico notes that while "Nelson is no longer calling the public plan a 'deal breaker'... On Wednesday, he said he could not back a public plan that jeopardized the private insurance coverage for 200 million Americans but he will 'look at any public plan that is presented.' 'Those people who are out there attacking us are using the whack-a-mole approach anyone who sticks their head up and says, 'I won't be supporting a single payer plan,' they whack,' Nelson said."
Senate negotiators have been trying to find a compromise, but didn't find one yesterday with competing Democratic alternatives floating around, including one from Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota to create nonprofit cooperatives, one from Sen. John Rockefeller, of West Virginia, appealing to more liberal members (Brown, 6/11).
And Roll Call reports that as Democrats battle over other issues such as war funding and a cap-and-trade bill limiting carbon emissions, the focus remains on health reform: "One House Democratic aide to a liberal lawmaker said left-leaning Members have been much more focused on health care reform and are generally happy with the direction negotiations on the issue are going. 'The debate is no longer whether there will be a public plan; it's over what the public plan will look like,' the aide said" (Dennis and Pierce, 6/11).