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Obama’s Public Option Waffles Aim Left-roots on Dems and the White House

From CBS News, another Obama wiggle yesterday on the Public Option:

“I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help,” Mr. Obama said.

And The Hill reports today in an article titled, “Pelosi leans on Obama,” that:

“While Obama administration officials have made various and sometimes contradictory remarks about the public option, Pelosi has been consistent.

“A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House,” Pelosi said in statement last Thursday. “Eliminating the public option would be a major victory for the insurance companies who have rationed care, increased premiums and denied coverage.”

“The Speaker’s press release pointedly put pressure on the president by quoting him saying “a public option will keep insurance companies honest.” The release also used the word “change” — a theme of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — to drive home Pelosi’s point: “Any real change requires the inclusion of a strong public option.”

Given the President’s ever-changing position on the public option, The Hill reports:

Pelosi aides maintain that — despite her unambiguous statement that a public option will be included in the House bill — there is no daylight between the Speaker and Obama. “The Speaker, just like the president, believes that the public option will keep the insurance companies honest and will ensure choice and competition,” Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said on Monday, maintaining that Pelosi has not backed away from her statement last week.

Many of Pelosi’s most ardent supporters, though, remained concerned that significant daylight exists. And they continued to voice their fears that in finally clarifying his must-haves, Obama will effectively abandon a commitment to a public option.

By keeping the left pressuring for a public option by issuing unclear statements about the public option President Obama is:

1) bleeding off the Left-wing grassroots firepower by training it on his own White House and moderate Democrats, and

2) risking a violent and strong disappointment if (when) the public option is dropped, since it cannot pass the U.S. Senate.

But even now, liberal Democrats are beginning to accept the public option “trigger” notion, according to Roll Call:

But the new openness by some liberals to at least entertain a trigger suggests it’s a movable standard.

“That’s why we used words like ‘robust’ — because it’s in the eye of the beholder,” Capuano said. “We’ll make our independent judgments.”

If lawmakers agree to embrace the public option as a backstop, liberals want it to be a hair-trigger, more likely to be pulled than not.

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), a Progressive Caucus member, said he did not support the approach but did not foreclose on it, either. “It depends on how strong that trigger is,” he said. Farr said he has seen triggers implemented effectively in California. “Triggers work, but they’ve got to be really clear as to how they operate,” he said. “The only way I could see it getting progressive votes is by making sure the public option is strong and goes into operation.”

Either way, liberals interviewed for this story said they welcomed Obama’s decision to step into the thick of the debate and looked forward to hearing some clarity from him about his preferred approach. “Let him be straight with us,” Pascrell said.

If the left caves in on the trigger, on an issue as important as their already compromised public option, then their threats to vote against any bill will never be taken seriously any time soon.

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