Liberal Backlash On Public Plan
The strong reaction by liberals to the possibility that the public option could be dropped from a health overhaul proposal peppered Tuesday's news coverage:
Politico: Obama's evident backing-off of the public option "sent congressional liberals into full revolt." Liberal lawmakers sent a letter to Obama's health secretary and told Politico that "a bill without a public option simply won't win enough votes in their caucus a sentiment that raises fresh questions about the prospects to enact sweeping health care reform this year." In the letter, three liberals warned, "To take the public option off the table would be a grave error" (Martin and Brown, 8/18).
The Washington Post: In the Senate, where negotiations are now focused, John D. Rockefeller [D-W.Va.] said that a public option is "a must." Sen. Russell Feingold [D-Wis.] said that 'without a public option, I don't see how we will bring real change to a system that has made good health care a privilege for those who can afford it.'" However, White House officials said the president's support for the plan had not changed and that the media had 'fabricated' the development. Meanwhile, "Democrats close to the White House" were pessimistic about forging a bipartisan compromise, but said backing away form the public plan may be necessary to gain support even from more conservative Democrats (Kornblut and Bacon, 8/18).
ABC News: Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., a public plan supporter, said "Some of us who have gotten roughed up pretty good at town hall meetings and stuck in there because we believe in this, now kind of feel like we have a tire track on our chest where the bus that rolled over us is," referring to the president's implicit change of tone. Weiner warned that some House Democrats may not support a bill without the public option. "If the president thinks we're gonna get the votes without the public option, he's got another think coming," Weiner said (Tapper, 8/17).
The Associated Press reported on the other end of the political spectrum, noting that Obama's weekend comments "drew scarce interest from Republicans and other critics on Monday, a fresh sign of the daunting challenge in finding middle ground in an increasingly partisan political struggle." Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, released a statement deflecting attention to other topics: "Americans are rightly skeptical about the administration's approach to overhauling everyone's health care Moreover, Americans are concerned about funding new government programs through massive cuts to Medicare and taxes on small business" (Espo, 8/18).