White House calls Obama discouraging public option claim ‘absolutely false’
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer responded sharply on Sunday night to multiple reports alleging that the White House has “gone soft” on a liberal version of the so-called public option, which would allow the government to compete with private insurance companies.
Reports Friday and Saturday signaled that the White House has expressed tepid support for a plan embraced by Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), which would allow states to opt-out of the public option. The Obama administration reportedly favors a plan championed by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), which would create a public option only if insurance companies failed to meet certain pricing and coverage standards.
Senate Democratic aides critiqued the White House in anonymous comments, saying that Obama wasn’t putting enough support behind Reid’s plan. The administration reportedly favors the Snowe plan because they worry that the opt-out option might not garner enough votes to pass.
Pfeiffer vehemently dismissed the reports, published on Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post.
“A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option,” Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog.
“Those rumors are absolutely false,” Pfeiffer continued. “In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President’s position.
“Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate,” he added. “President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate.
While Pfeiffer said that Obama emphatically supports a public option, he didn’t specifically deny assertions that Obama favored the so-called Snowe “trigger” option. The trigger option has less support from liberals, who say that it will allow insurance companies to evade eventual public competition.
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, a liberal blogger, said that Obama didn’t express support for Reid’s push to include an opt-out version of the public option in the Senate health overhaul bill.
“On Thursday night, Reid went over to the White House for a talk with the president,” Klein wrote. “The conversation centered on Reid’s desire to put Schumer’s national opt-out plan into the base bill. White House officials were not necessarily pleased, and they made that known. Everyone agrees that they didn’t embrace Reid’s new strategy. Everyone agrees that the White House wants Snowe on the bill.”
Adam Green, of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, criticized the White House statement in a popular Daily Kos blog post Sunday.
“Expressing a preference for the public option is not the same as fighting for the public option,” Green wrote. “Telling Harry Reid ‘good luck with that’ is not the same as the president saying, ‘I am there helping Reid fight for those final votes.'”