Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Inside the President's Conference Call with Progressives

A close friend of mine is an aide to Nydia Velazquez. She lives across the street from me in Brooklyn and was one of my good sources when I worked at ABC. We are spending the weekend among other friends here in Fire Island. She was with Nydia yesterday on the conference call with the President. Here’s what she told me.  

On the call was the President, Rahm Emanuel, Lynn Woosley, Raul Grijalva, Mike Honda, Barbara Lee, Nydia Velazquez and whoever else from the caucuses who wanted to join in.

The President opened up by saying that he was not dropping the public option, but that he wasn’t going to demand it because he felt to do so would not make it anymore likely he’d get it than if the progressive caucuses in the House demanded it. He told them that they have much more influence over legislation than he does, reminded them of what happened with cramdown in the Senate and Bill Clinton in 1994 with healthcare.

The President also reminded them that the conference committee would likely be filled with their own and that puts them in a bigger bargaining position.

The part about how they’re safe in their districts came up on a suggestion by Lynn Woosley that voting for a bill with no public option would put progressives in jeopardy in primaries, to which the President suggested that would never happen. “You’re all safe” The President pointed out that Jim Clyburn has been whipping a bill with a strong public option and that fall frighteningly close to 218 votes, in part because progressives in swing districts (He, my friend, named Tom Periello, Eric Massa, Alan Grayson, John Adler, Steve Kagen and Larry Kissell specifically, are voting no or leaning no because they believe there is strong opposition in their constituencies.) I’d be surprised if Grayson is in fact a no, but whatever. Woosley told the President that if these members voted yes, they need not worry because the money would be there to fund them next year to which the President suggested they take it up with Clyburn, Chris Van Hollen and the specific representatives.

Now, on the public option, the President did confirm that he was considering a trigger in the Senate bill and reminded them that a trigger was better than having no public option coming out of the Senate into conference. They agreed, but pressed further that they would really prefer a strong public option coming out of the Senate. The President said whether or not we get triggers in a final bill depends on how far they willing to compromise. He then asked them how far they were willing to compromise. They answered this was as far as they would go, but that it was entirely possible for some members of their ranks to compromise further only after it appears the public option cannot pass both Houses. The President suggested that being unwilling to compromise would put progressives in a better position in conference, but that they might have to swallow a bill with a trigger coming out of the Senate into conference. He would have to try. The President discussed reconciliation and said the only way to push the Senate leadership on that would be if a public option came out of the House first. They further suggested the possibility of putting triggers to a vote in the House and letting it fail to pressure the Senate. The President suggested that might be a bad idea from the PR standpoint to see anything fail in the House.

They agreed to meet before the speech so the leaders of the CPC and tri caucus can go over his speech and set up a legislative timetable to get a bill out of the House.

Now I was reminded at MyDD that I’m not nearly a as trusted a news source as, say, Politico, but hey. Too bad, if I was still worked for ABC, they’d be licking my feet.  


  1. HappyinVT

    a deep breath and wait to see what Obama says Monday and Wednesday.

    It seems to make sense.  The House is in a stronger position and we just need to get a bill out of the Senate Finance Committee so we can move on.  Is working with Snowe an effort to do just that and include a trigger so that a public option is even mentioned in that bill?  It’s possible, assuming he really is working on some secret deal.

    I will say, though, that I think we could have avoided some of this mess and delay had the president come out strong at the beginning of the debate and made a really convincing case for the public option and just what the bill should include and called on the thousands if not millions of us who were ready to go to bat for healthcare who haven’t felt like fighting for it when it seems like our representatives aren’t.

    But all will be forgotten and forgiven if we get the kind of healthcare reform we need.

    BTW, perhaps Rahm isn’t the son of the devil he’s been made out to be.

  2. is the ONLY way we will be able to introduce anything remotely looking like even unfair competition into health care.

    And I want fair competition in the market, but we will not see that for some time.  And if we see a slide into single payer for health care, so be it.

    I think that once the public gets a taste of middlemen that they have some ability to oversee, and NOT have to sue in order to do so, then we will see a slide away from private insurance, and eventually into a single payer system. I can accept that, if we can keep the system running with some efficiency.

    That is the real fear against a public option. That the public might get a taste for it…

  3. and that is how long it will take to get a public option going even if they have the balls to enact it when the trigger point comes. We are already looking at a delay of up to 4 years before some parts of the bill go into effect. Add a trigger to that and we could be near the end of Obama’s second term before it would activate. There wouldn’t be time to get a strong public backing for it before a new administration comes into office.

    Even if you speed the process up a bit it is still iffy. We’d be looking at 2-3 years before any kind of trigger activated a public option. Then you have to get it set up and working. We’d already be into the next presidential term. There are no guarantees that Obama will not be a one-term president. If the job outlook stays bad and income is stagnant then we are in trouble. If we get bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq in addition to a bad job market then I’m not sure any Democrat could hold on to the WH.

  4. louisprandtl

    his signature points during his election. I’m quoting directly from Obama-Biden healthcare plan where he promised us a new public plan. Folks like Prof Hacker of Yale University had shown presence of a public plan would reduce the rise of healthcare costs in United States considerably. I find President Obama’s consideration of the trigger weak and considerable backtracking from a promise he made to us during the election!


    National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals purchase new affordable health care options if they are

    uninsured or want new health insurance. Through the Exchange, any American will have the opportunity to

    enroll in the new public plan or an approved private plan, and income-based sliding scale tax credits will be


    provided for people and families who need it. Insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy and charge

    fair and stable premiums that will not depend upon health status. The Exchange will require that all the plans

    offered are at least as generous as the new public plan and meet the same standards for quality and efficiency.

    Insurers would be required to justify an above-average premium increase to the Exchange. The Exchange

    would evaluate plans and make the differences among the plans, including cost of services, transparent.

    When ardent supporters of the President like Bob Johnson wrote the following at Dailykos, you know the President is in real trouble with progressive community.

    I’m not outraged by the disappearance of the public plan. Par for the course. Money rules in Washington, and the corporate types toss out cash like confetti to the pathetic “public servants” we call Senators.

    Yeah, there are few good ones, but most of them are bought and paid for by the swells.

    Still, I couldn’t let the passing of the public option go without at least offering our president my own sad dose of reality. I’m not sure he could have done anything about it, nor am I sure he really wanted to do anything about it. But I sent him this note, nonetheless…

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