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Village Surprise On Health Care

The latest Village meme on health care and the public option is an expression of surprise that it’s still alive. Clearly they all believed – reporters, operatives and politicians alike – that they could punch the hippies in the teeth without consequences and congratulate each other for doing so in the name of “winning the health care battle.” This under-estimation of the intensity of the progressive coalition on this issue is a permanent condition. In fact, it continues, with the expectations on a down-shift into the trigger option, which isn’t acceptable to anyone in the progressive coalition or the Progressive Caucus in Congress. The nugget in that Washington Post story, that the House and Senate want to pass similar versions of the public option, so conference committee can focus on other issues, actually makes it more likely that the trigger gets extinguished, because it simply cannot pass the House. The opt-out may have more of a chance, but the Progressive Caucus still “opposes an opt-out in any form.”

That said, I have to marvel at statements like this from Politico’s Jonathan Martin on Hardball:

MARTIN: Yeah, there’s truth to that, and that’s in large part, Chris because you have House progressives who are very wary of anything that is not a robust public plan. And there are some of those folks, that have nothing politically to lose, that are going to very much hew to that, and are not going to support anything short of a full public option, and that’s going to be a real problem for the Speaker.

This is just not true. Here you have an anti-incumbent mood across the country, as much among Democrats and progressives as Republicans. Progressives have had a general sense of disappointment with Congress since Democrats won the House in 2006. There is no issue where the public is as keyed in as on this health care issue. There’s no question that progressives will face primaries, which wouldn’t have to be entirely well-funded if the public mood sours, if they don’t stand up for their constituencies, who are most in need of a public insurance option, in the halls of Congress. They are showing that directly through their actions. They actually have EVERYTHING politically to lose.

Since the Village missed the fact that progressives would actually force the public option into the bill from the bottom up, I think we can expect that they’ve missed the fact that their progressive representatives in Congress would do the same, at least partly out of political survival.

This is unrelated, but kind of glorious. From the WaPo health care article:

Reid’s original inclination was to leave the public option out of a final bill he is writing from measures passed by the finance and health committees. But his liberal colleagues began urging him two weeks ago to reconsider, after insurance industry forecasts that premiums would rise sharply under the Finance Committee bill, which lacked a public option. The report had the effect of prodding Democrats to look for better ways to control costs, and the public option — strongly opposed by the insurance industry — reemerged as a possible solution.

AHIP has been the public option’s best friend for the last month.

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David Dayen

David Dayen