Obama promises progressives he’ll revisit public option after bill passes
Progressives may be denied their overriding health care priority this time around, but according to President Barack Obama, it won’t be over with this bill.
Obama urged leading progressive Democrats in a closed-door meeting Thursday evening to back the health care bill, placating their concerns about the public option and warning them that the liberal agenda was at stake.
Obama told the group of House members he thought the public plan didn’t have the votes this time, but reportedly assured them he’ll revisit it after the bill’s passage, warning that failure would imperil the issue for a generation.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said after the meeting that Obama’s message was, “If this opportunity passes, much of our agenda, on the progressive side…it would be difficult, if not impossible for a generation to get back to this issue,” according to Talking Points Memo.
“To maintain a strong presidency we need to pass this bill,” Grijalva summarized Obama’s remarks.
The congressman noted in a statement to reporters he was “encouraged” after Obama “personally committed to pursue a public option after passage of the current bill.”
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) added, “He encouraged us to understand that this is the beginning of health care reform, not the end of it — and that we will fix it later, as we have with Social Security and Medicare,” in an interview with The Plum Line‘s Greg Sargent.
“He doesn’t believe the Senate has 51 votes for the public option,” Woolsey said. She added that Obama “thanked” the assembled, telling them their advocacy made the bill much stronger and that this wouldn’t be the end for health reform.
Grijalva and Woolsey, the two co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have lately withheld their support for the bill but sounded sold on it by last night.
Sargent reported that Woolsey said “she’s now a definite Yes on the Senate bill” even if it excludes the public option. The congresswoman last week told Raw Story that if the public option fails she would introduce it in a separate package soon after its enactment.
“It’s pretty compelling,” said Grijalva, who on Wednesday told Salon he’s leaning toward voting no, of Obama’s remarks.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Obama told them in the meeting that “31 million people will have health insurance as a result of this bill.”
“I think [this] resonates for a lot of people,” Lee added.
A progressive health reform priority, the public option was approved by the House in its November bill. But liberals grew uneasy about the Senate bill in December, mainly because of the provision’s removal.
The meeting came one day after Obama urged Congress in a televised speech to “get it done,” even if it means using reconciliation to amend the Senate bill before calling for one final motion.
According to Huffington Post‘s senior congressional correspondent Ryan Grim, other attendees included CPC Health Care Task Force co-chair Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus chair Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), and Reps. Danny Davis (D-IL), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) and Donna Christensen (Virgin Islands).