Something unexpected just happened on Capitol Hill today--the Congressional Progressive Caucus drew a line in the sand on something. In a letter sent to Speaker Pelosi, Representatives Woolsey and Grijalva stated that most of the 77-member progressive caucus will not support a health care plan that lacks a public option with a level playing field. I like it:
Dear Madam Speaker and Majority Leader,
Regarding the upcoming health care reform debate, we believe it is important for you to know that virtually the entire 77-Member Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) prefers a single-payer approach to healthcare reform. Therefore, it will come as no surprise as you work to craft comprehensive health care reform legislation, that we urge the inclusion of a public plan option, at a minimum, in the final legislation. We have polled CPC Members and a strong majority will not support legislation that does not include a public plan option that is supported on a level playing field with private health insurance plans.
We look forward to working with you to ensure inclusion of a public plan option and the successful passage of healthcare legislation that will provide a choice of quality healthcare for all Americans
Lynn Woolsey, Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus
Raul Grijalva, Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus
As the conservodems in the Senate seem mainly fixated on cap and trade, it appears that Progressives have fired the opening shot on health care. If there is no public option, then there is no deal.
This isn't an issue where House Blue Dogs and Senate Conservodems can hide behind their "red" districts in opposition. Here is the most recent poll I could find that seemed to talk about a public option:
CBS News/New York Times Poll. Jan. 11-15, 2009. N=1,112 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.
"Should the government in Washington provide national health insurance, or is this something that should be left only to private enterprise?"
Government 59%--32% Private Enterprise
With a margin like that, only about 20-30 of the 435 congressional districts, and only about 4-5 states, would be opposed to a public option. And even then, the opposition would be pretty narrow. However, at the same time, terms like "public option" don't really mean much to people yet. The frames and terminology that will drive public opinion on this debate have not yet been set. Drawing a line in the sand is a good first step, but now we have to brace ourselves against what will inevitably be bi-partisan talking points about socialized medicine and government intruding on families. As long as the reconciliation process is still available for health care, as long as the progressive caucus holds a line on the public option, and as long as we can control the framing of the debate, this is a winnable campaign.
Good job, Congressional Progressive Caucus!