Talking Points Memo reports that Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, released a statement Tuesday that calls “troubling” the White House and Senate Democrats’ compromises on the public option—by this point a mere shadow of the original idea (itself a compromise short of universal coverage). Senate leaders and the White House, said Grijalva,
have already compromised far too much. At some point in this process, the question became not what was the best policy for the American people, but what could be done to appease a recalcitrant handful who have negotiated in bad faith. We need strong leadership so close to the finish line, not efforts to water down a bill to the breaking point in a misguided attempt to win votes that were never there.
The House of Representatives voted on its bill on November . Since that vote, the action has been in the Senate. The action has consisted mainly of compromises and wrangling with stubborn “conserva-Dems” such as Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and “independent” Joe Lieberman, and continued courting of the Republicans from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. As of this week, the Senate seems to be moving toward creating a nonprofit board rather than a truly public option (which Lieberman has said he will not vote for, no matter how watered down it may be). Grijalva says of the nonprofit board idea:
A non-public option without government support will not bring down prices, expand coverage or provide competition for private companies. . . . Voters will instantly recognize it as a whitewash of the problem we have spent the better part of this year trying to fix. They would be right to criticize any plan that fails to address their concerns, and they will be doubly right to reject this one.
We need a public option, period. . . . I cannot support a system that forces Americans to buy private insurance and then allows those companies to collect government subsidies without competition. Our final health care bill should be based on policy outcomes and the needs of consumers, and the direction the Senate is taking does not give me confidence.