No, Olympia Snowe didn’t come up with the idea for triggers.
Matthew Spieler is a former policy analyst for Congressional Quarterly, where he covered health care, education, labor, and veterans’ affairs. A graduate of The George Washington University, he has also worked as a reporter for CQ covering the Senate floor.
He seems to be working off the same notes that BooMan was in response to an email I sent out, taking them at face value rather than fact checking them. And with the same ensuing public face plant. In the email, I mentioned that Rahm Emanuel had been fighting for triggers ever since Obama took office. Spieler responds:
Rahm Emanuel has not been pushing a trigger “ever since he took office.” This was Olympia Snowe’s idea, and Emanuel saw it as the most politically viable option. You can disagree with him, or be angry with him, but the trigger is not part of his long-planned secret plot help the insurance industry. It’s just not.
Olympia Snowe’s idea? Really?
Sam Stein of the Huffington Post has reported that “[A] source close to the administration, who has been in contact with the White House on health care matters, said that Emanuel has been “floating” the trigger compromise since January.”
And on June 2, Sam wrote an article entitled Obama, Senate Dems Consider Public Health Care Option With A Trigger:
The Obama administration and Senate Democrats are debating a health care reform outline that will insist upon a public option for insurance but leave open the possibility for it to be kicked in via triggers.
Multiple Democratic sources tell the Huffington Post that the White House and key members of the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committees are in the process of hammering out key principles on health care reform — with a meeting scheduled at the West Wing this afternoon. One of the components will be music to progressive ears: that any bill includes an option publicly run health insurance coverage. But it also comes with a caveat that could engender opposition from that very same constituency.
A trigger would pave the way for public option to come into place only after certain market conditions are met — mainly if private insurance companies are unable to achieve various metrics for coverage within a certain time frame. The proposal would placate many of the private health care actors who consider a public plan the first step towards a single-payer system. Progressives, however, view it as reform in name and not substance.
“This is really, obviously, a mechanism to kill the public plan,” said one progressive health care reform advocate. “We will see what comes out, but the fact that they are debating this is problematic.”
Mentioned in the article: Carper, Mikulski, Schumer, Wyden and Baucus. Not mentioned: Olympia Snowe.
Then on July 7, the Wall Street Journal reported: “On Monday, Mr. Emanuel said the trigger mechanism would also accomplish the White House’s goals. Under this scenario, a public plan would kick in under certain circumstances when competition was judged to be lacking.” No mention of Olympia Snowe.
The first mention of Snowe’s support for a trigger that I saw came in this September 2 Atlantic post by Marc Ambinder:
Senior White House officials, in conversations with reporters today, are floating the idea that President Obama is secretly negotiating with Sen. Olympia Snowe over a health care compromise that would phase in a government-funded health care alternative if private insurance companies fail to meet quality and cost benchmarks over a certain period of the time.
Ambinder wrote “for months, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been pushing the idea of a “trigger” internally.” Snowe subsequently offered up a trigger amendment on September 21 in the Senate Finance Committee, but pulled it before it came up for a vote.
The next time someone reaches out and taps you with a “special” tip like this, Matthew, ask yourself why they had to get all the way to you before finding someone who would willingly print this. You just might find that everyone else knew it was bullshit.