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February 23, 2010 11:28 PM UTC

Robert Gibbs proves me right about the Public Option

  • by: wade norris

Today, Tuesday Feb. 23rd, 2010, one week after the Bennet Letter was started, The White House officially stated their position on the effort for Reconciliation.


“The President took the Senate bill as the base and looks forward to discussing consensus ideas on Thursday,” Gibbs added, presumably meaning that the public option is not a consensus idea.

It’s unclear why Gibbs is deciding in advance that there isn’t enough support to pass this idea. Momentum has been gathering for days. It’s also very likely that it would continue to gain steam if Obama racks up a victory at the summit and Dems press forward with plans to pass reform themselves via reconciliation.

But Gibbs’s statement seems likely, willfully or not, to slow that momentum in advance.

As I noted below, the failure to put the public option in Obama’s proposal doesn’t preclude a reconciliation vote on it later. But Gibbs is flatly declaring it a non-starter right now, before the idea has a chance to gain steam after a successful summit – a declaration that risks being taken by some in Congress as a virtual death sentence.

I still have hopes that the people making calls to the Senators can still get to 50 signatures, but realistically, this act by the White House gives those senators all the cover they need.…

I mention the date of February 16th because that was last Tuesday – and two days later on February 18th, President Obama came to Colorado to campaign for Senator Bennet, who is in a tough primary fight.

Excuse my incredulity, but wouldn’t the biggest news in Democratic circles – a letter authored by Senator Bennet pertaining to health care reform – just released the week before the President’s summit on health care – wouldn’t that have been discussed between the President and Senator Bennet?

Instead, I find my hopes for the President’s agenda being crushed under the weight of the cold hard reality of political calculus and inside baseball politics.

Otherwise, why on Earth would the President announce ,less than a week after the Bennet letter was created, today’s health care bill, which has no public option?

That knee-caps any effort to get to the magical 50 count for reconciliation, and gives cover to Senators who had been dodging answering how they stood on the letter – such as Colorado’s other Senator, Mark Udall, who was taped as saying that he did not know if he would sign the letter because he did not want to ‘box the President in’

(hattip to Mario-Solis Marich and AM 760)

The only answer that makes sense is that the President never intended to let the public option through, and this Bennet letter was merely the White House’s way to provide a way for some Democratic Senators to bolster their credentials with base voters, while not actually having accomplished anything.


btw – this diary is much more an indictment of the White House than of any individual Senator.

Those who signed on can say ‘we tried’ to the base, and those who didn’t can say ‘we are supporting the POTUS’ agenda’


57 thoughts on “Robert Gibbs proves me right about the Public Option

  1. without saying it’s your own writing you’re quoting?

    Ah, the world of Wade Norris … every setback proves Bennet is a monster, every advance proves it’s a conspiracy to hide the fact Bennet is a monster, and every social ill could be solved like that! if only Bennet weren’t a monster.

    1. so yeah, I am going to refer to the article in which i made my depressing assertion – which was verified by today’s press briefing.

      By the way, I do want the letter to succeed and if it does get to 50, then the President has said he will sign it into law, but as another commenter stated on KOS, if that happens it will be in spite of the White House’s efforts to stop the letter.


        As I wrote back in August, the evidence was clear that while the President was publicly claiming that he supported the public option, the White House, in private, was doing everything possible to ensure its exclusion from the final bill (in order not to alienate the health insurance industry by providing competition for it).  Yesterday, Obama — while having his aides signal that they would use reconciliation if necessary — finally unveiled his first-ever health care plan as President, and guess what it did not include?  The public option, which he spent all year insisting that he favored oh-so-much but sadly could not get enacted:  Gosh, I really want the public option, but we just don’t have 60 votes for it; what can I do?.  As I documented in my contribution to the NYT forum yesterday, now that there’s a 50-vote mechanism to pass it, his own proposed bill suddenly excludes it.

        1. You are asserting President Obama was lying about wanting a public option? “Snap, he sure was convincing on his every Tuesday night OFA call last year! He sure had me going!”

          Obama is being a mediator right now. It is part of what he learned as a community organizer. I don’t especially like that he has a bent for bipartisonship on this issue, but he did make it clear in many of his speeches that he was against “politics as usual”. We may be disappointed, but we shouldn’t be surprised. The President is true to his word.

          I want Single Payer. Am I fighting for it?  No(because I think it is a pipe dream in this political climate). Barack Obama desperately wanted a public option as far as I could tell on those OFA calls. Even more, I think it’s clear he wants to heal the country and have a lasting legacy as a uniter, whether we progressives like his style or not.

          Keep making stuff up, Wade. It is very entertaining.

    2. I guess if I find an other blogger to speculate that Wade is in fact a dickhead, I can claim that’s correct too.

      But, wait

      What if, Greg Sargent’s analysis is wrong. Then Wade is just echoing himself.  By that standard, I could declare myself “right” just be referencing my previously posted assertion.

  2. The New York Times has a very different take than Wade (or the “Huffington Post”) does.

    According to a front page NYT article, reconciliation is very much alive as an option in the view of the White House.

    Here is a short clip:

    The White House signaled more clearly than it had until now that barring a bipartisan breakthrough, Democrats would try a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation to pass the bill through the Senate on a simple majority vote, avoiding the 60-vote supermajority needed to avert a Republican filibuster.

    Full article on NYT here:

    Now, no one is guaranteeing that the public option will be put in or that reconciliation will (or even can) be used.  But it could be a tad early to declare it dead.

    1. but from your linked article it clearly states that Obama has taken the public option off the table, which is the point of this diary. The president, for whatever fucked up reasons, has just made it that much harder to get 27 more Senators to sign on to including the public option in the bill that will be put forward for reconciliation.

      Like the Senate version, Mr. Obama’s bill does not include a so-called public option, a government-backed insurance plan to compete with the private sector.

      1. when i really wish we were just having a scream fest over primary candidates, because i hate being right on this.

        all of my effort in the POTUS primaries for Edwards, and later Obama, was to avoid another Clinton Presidency, because of how that POTUS sold out on Healthcare and NAFTA – and here we are again with Rahm Emmanuel still calling the shots and the ideas that work, like a PO getting sacrificed.



      Everyone remembers that George W. Bush’s first tax cut was contentious when Congress considered it back in 2001. So contentious, in fact, that the Bushies didn’t even try passing it under normal Senate procedures. The GOP leadership, worried that it couldn’t collect 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster, relied on reconciliation, the Senate rule that allows budget-related measures to pass with a simple majority.

         What fewer people remember is the margin by which Bush’s tax cut finally passed the Senate. As it happens, the number of yeas was 62-including 12 Democrats. That would qualify as a bipartisan love-fest by contemporary standards.

         The upshot is that liberal use of reconciliation and other ostensible crimes against Senate protocol may be the Democrats’ best hope going forward. Moderates will complain that they risk a voter backlash by looking thuggish and partisan. But, as Bush showed, these tactics aren’t just a way to enact an agenda that the opposition is bent on blocking. They’re the most effective way to achieve bipartisanship in the process.

      i am still holding out for hope, but i think the President is using this letter as a way to get Republicans to be Bipartisan and support his compromise.

      When the President goes into negotiations on Thursday, he can say, ‘look, if you don’t say yes, reconciliation is what will happen, and with this letter for the PO getting stronger, you better get on board.’

      (gawd i am a skeptic)

      on the other hand, if republicans are dumb and stick to their party of ‘no’ tactics, and have no real proposal or won’t agree, then I think the letter and the grassroots will reach a critical mass, and will demand the PO be re-included, because the R’s are going to oppose everything in the bill anyway, so it might as well have the PO in it.

        1. As is par for the course when it comes to him, he “hasn’t made up his mind.” God forbid he should be proactive on something instead of his usual waiting to see which way the wind is blowing.

          And by the way, we’re up to 23 as of today that have signed on.

      1. that the president is using Bennet’s letter that way, but the Senate has a mind of its own. I’m as skeptical as you are we’ll see a public option cross Obama’s desk, but it’s not for lack of trying on the part of some of its strongest proponents. You’re imagining conspiracy and coordination where I think the record clearly shows none exists — this is still very much up for grabs.

        1. and i think the WH has realized that the letter is taking on a life of its own, which is why, after only letting it gain momentum for a mere 6 days (and 20 signatures = 50 by 3 weeks) the WH threw this ‘bucket of cold water’ on the letter’s efforts.


    3. He’s quick to jump the gun when he thinks he’s been proven right, but oh so slow to admit he was mistaken — or flat-out lied, as he would have it — in previous posts. Now that’s quality blogging!

      1. i would be the first to offer a mea culpa (an apology)

        but as for my claims that this letter is just a bait and switch aimed at giving endangered dem senators some love from the base, let’s look at what you wrote yourself RG

        Senators signing Bennet’s letter

        Talking Points Memo lists the 20 Democratic (and Bernie Sanders) senators who’ve signed on so far, giving Bennet some front-page action in the process.

        some front page action – could not hurt with the base, could it. Your own statement, in conjunction with the WH’s abandonment on the PO, which the Letter was created to save, seem to prove my point, albeit a sad one.

        1. No it doesn’t, I was noting that Bennet’s picture has been appearing on the front page of Talking Points Memo since last week because of this letter. That has nothing to do with your contention this is a bait-and-switch. Nothing.

          And your slowness (so slow it doesn’t yet exist) to offer a correction to your previous misstatements concern the Nebraska bribe, the support of “Labor” and Romanoff’s erroneous dig at Bennet for taking to the floor “after” the bill had passed, when in fact the opposite is true. I don’t care if you “mea culpa” over some prediction or analysis that is later proven wrong — we all make guesses without knowing what’s really going on, or what decisions people might make — it’s when you throw out factually untrue statements and then waltz off without acknowledging what you said was untrue. That, a blogger called Wade Norris once said, isn’t the mark of a quality blogger.

          1. and i have apologized when found to be in error (ask RSB)

            but if I am a ‘non-quality blogger’

            by your standards, then there is no gamemanship, and the White House and the President is just killing the effort behind the letter because of complete ineptitude – oh and Bennet and Obama never discussed the letter last Thursday when they campaigned together.

            (i am too skeptical to buy that)

            i am no quality blogger, but i smell complete bs going on from the WH.

            it will be up to us – go to the Whip Congress website to get involved.


            (someone tell Mark to call his cousin in NM and ask him for some advice)

            1. Oh grow up, Wade, the world isn’t as black-and-white as you seem to want it to be. Greenwald’s right, and you are too (above) — Obama hasn’t been fully behind the public option since last summer, and looks like he’s quite willing to cut it loose to get health care reform passed. The White House isn’t going to get behind it. But it doesn’t follow from acknowledging that to declare Bennet’s letter, and the widespread effort to revive the public option, is merely part of a plot to prop up Bennet with progressives. It’s its own thing — and the Senate, obviously, makes up its own mind on these things. If there’s a chance for the public option to squeak through, it will happen because of Bennet’s effort, not because the White House backs it, because that was never going to happen.

              And if you think Bennet and Obama had a discussion about “the letter” last Thursday, you’re dreaming. The two probably had 30 seconds to exchange small talk and ask about each other’s families — it was a quick in-and-out, not a summit.  

  3. What would it look like if the President is doubtful that there is enough support in the Senate (or the House) for the public option, even though he has endorsed or is otherwise supportive of Senators who do in fact support the public option?

    Well, I’d predict that he would endorse whomever he wants for whatever reason he wants.

    I’d predict that when he put out his healthcare outline, in anticipation of the R/D WH summit later this week, that he’d leave out stuff he doesn’t think has broad support to pass.

    I’d predict that Senators who still support the public option would attempt to get an up or down vote anyway (reconciliation).

    If only the President would agree to sign a reconciliation bill even with the public option if the Senate could get one to his desk.  

    What’s that you say – the President did agree to sign such a bill if the Senate can pass one?

    Oh, well, in that case -Wade is wrong, despite is well sourced conformations.  And Wade may or may not be a dickhead.

    1. MADCO, peacemonger and Middle of the Road (off the top of my head) does the good Senator who you adore even know you and what you are writing?  You three, especially, are an embarrassment to the Democratic Party and the people of Colorado.

      (This is the point that I will do your work for you – I literally just signed up for Pols so I could start to post because you need to be called out.  Of course that means I have “zero credibility” because I have not posted before but that does not mean I haven’t observed what is going on here.)

      I, nor anyone, who is not one of Sen. Bennet’s lackeys even takes you seriously.  Yes-you are a Bennet lackey.  I know who all three of the above mentioned people are.  Some of you have spoken on behalf of Sen. Bennet.  Some of you have even used the phrase “my campaign told me” in your posts.  You are holding yourself out as a mouthpiece of the campaign.

      Over the last few months, as an outside observer, I have come to this conclusion – your actions show desperation from a campaign that has nothing to offer the people of Colorado.  When someone even hints they disagree with you or Sen. Bennet or even shows an iota of support for Andrew Romanoff you go off with insults instead of trying to sell your candidate on his merits to the masses.  I am not saying there are not people like you on the side of Romanoff, there are, but your cronies are just the most obnoxious, rude and insulting.

      I have sat with Presidents, legislators and world leaders and I can tell you (MADCO, peacemonger and Middle of the Road) that if I was representing them the way you are representing Sen. Bennet I would quickly be removed from their side.  

      Bravo to Wade Norris and others who are trying to report facts.  I can tell you that there are many more people that matter who recognize what he is doing and dismissing you.  

      1. and, your first post is a ‘take no prisoners’ diary.

        I would, humbly suggest that you start writing regularly on this site.

        Otherwise, your comments are too easily dismissed and unverifiable.

        how about an introduction diary about who you are, why you write, and how you chose your name.

      2. I stayed out of the “Romanoff-Bennet” wars on this site completely until very recently (a week or so ago), and even since then have constantly reitered my respect for both candidates, and my commitment to support whichever one wins the primary. While I am not on the fence, I am not particularly eager to condone any rancor or hyperbole by either side.

        Your post is nothing more than one of the worst examples of what it claims to be condemning, accusing those who have not particularly engaged in the kind of behavior that you yourself are engaging in.

        I have no idea who you are or what your purpose is. You could well be a Republican, for all I know, who thought that fanning these flames would serve your party’s interests. But if you are what you claim to be (leaving aside the improbably padded resume), then you need to read your own post as though it were directed at you, for everything you wrote to the three Bennet supporters you named is far more applicable to you than it is to them. If you find it as inappropriate as you claim, than I am sure you will want to stop engaging in it.

        My greatest concern is the damage you, and those posting in like manner, are doing to Andrew Romanoff, who will only be weakened by it in the general should he win the primary. Please stop (all of you). And if someone flames you Bennet supporters in this way, please just ignore it, and don’t flame back. It’s extremely bad for all of us.

      3. The Senator might know who I am. Maybe not.

        I am not a campaign employee, more of a low energy neighborhood volunteer. I will caucus for him, I’m sure I’ve never used the phrase “my campaign told me” and when I post here and elsewhere I do not speak for the campaign.

        I’ve seen some signs of desperation in this Senate primary but not from Senator Bennet. I don’t feel desperation.  Not sure why you would be seeing that.

        Can you provide any specific examples of actions or statements that appeared desperate to you?  Perhaps it was hiring the strange and easily discredited advisor Pat Caddell.  Perhaps it was having a debate which demonstrated the lack of significant policy differences. Perhaps it was putting up record donation numbers 10-months from election day.  

        I’ve posted before- and will again – why I support Senator Bennet.  Why are you for Romanoff?

        “…most obnoxious, rude and insulting.”

        I did recently call another poster a dickhead.  But that’s as obnoxious as I’ve been and I did it because he blasted a friend’s post, calling it lies and blah blah blah and then he structured a post exactly the same way, much longer and with wayy more speculation and baloney, and yet he didn’t seem to mind that it could just as equally be called lies but he wanted is spin and framing accepted on its face. Oh, he quoted two sources- another blogger and himself.  That was a kind of dick move.

        I’m sure Wade has more fans than I.

        Which Presidents, legislators and world leaders have you sat with?  I’ve had a few sit downs too – they didn’t seem particularly offended by me, though President Carter did seem a bit frustrated I wasn’t a registered D at the time.

        Let’s get back to the point – I’ve posted before- and will again – why I support Senator Bennet.  Why are you for Romanoff?

      4. If I agree with Wade, it’s bravo to me.

        If I disagree with Wade, I am an embarrassment to the Democratic Party. Seems like a tough choice, but if that’s all there is, prepare to be embarrassed.

        Oh, wait- this one of those “false choice” thingies.  How about this choice – I disagree with Wade, and MADCO and Colorado Pols and you and Joe Rice and anyone else I choose to disagree with. The Democratic Party has an energetic discussion where not only do we sometimes disagree on policy (cramdown or no cramdown, payday lender regulation or not) but we also sometimes disagree on candidates (Obama or Clinton, Miles or Salazar).

        There have been posters here who have been obnoxious and insulting.  But the three you named are not the three that would leap to mind as the most egregious, or even all that notable. I don’t recall pm doing anything obnoxious. And I recall both MOTR and MADCO complimenting Romanoff way more than I’ve seen any Romanoff supporter compliment Senator Bennet.

        And not to hold up the big mirror as SH, TFO suggests, but why name those three and not any of the more egregious? Could it be because they support Bennet and you support Romanoff?  You didn’t say, but it seems relevant – and if you do, why do you supoprt Romanoff?

        More to the point, why do you come to roast these three  “…instead of trying to sell your candidate on his merits to the masses”?

        I don’t challenge your credibiltiy because you are new, but because you do exactly what you claim to reject. So it’s bad for anyone else to do it, because, apparently they disagree with you. But it’s not only ok, it’s necessary for you to do it.  You know, I am a little embarrassed for the Democratic party, assuming of course you are a D.

      5. otoole, you wrote “Some of you have even used the phrase ‘my campaign told me’ in your posts.  You are holding yourself out as a mouthpiece of the campaign.”

        I don’t remember anyone saying that, yet you’re declaring that multiple people have done so. That’s a pretty serious claim — that certain Pols posters are “mouthpieces” for a campaign — so please let us know which members have said that.

      6. I move further into Bennet’s camp.  If anyone has secured my caucus vote for the Sen. it is SH, JO, and now you.  

        The Bennet campaign thanks you Oh Tool.  

                    1. Steve — you do poetry and hip-hop dancing?  You are definately my candidate!

        1. I actually was on the fence as to Bennet/Romanoff until I saw Romanoff’s bitchiest supporters here, paralleling the increasingly bitchy tone Romanoff himself has taken. His “I’m the experienced one” edge has been overtaken by a contradictory “I’m the immature one” tone.

      7. in the Romanoff camp.

        The fact it is one of the most negative run Demcocratic primary campaigns in the history of the state received some reinforcement by the SEIU today.

    2. so never mind except to reiterate very briefly: I think it’s clear Barack Obama has been a supporter of very progressive health policy — he’d years ago said he supported single-payer but didn’t see it likely to pass. So the idea that he’s somehow intentionally killing a public option is silly.

      I think it’s pretty clear that he’s proposing a non-public-option plan because he’s concluded, based on better info than we have (except Otoole, who knows all the Presidents and House of Lords or whatever):(a) in the Senate, getting 50 senators for reconciliation requires some folks who aren’t public option fans; and (b) in the House, making up for Stupak and 5-10 pro-lifers abandoning the bill requires winning over some moderate/conservative Dems in the Betsy Markey mold, who aren’t public option fans.

      I’d love to have the public option and I think it’s sad we won’t — but I think it’s sadder that pressing for a public option is risking killing a bill that’ll get health care to millions who now can’t afford it.

            1. are particularly lame, like chatting with Timothy Busfield (known to some of you as the reporter dating Alison Janney on “the west wing”) about New Orleans while waiting to board a plane (to New Orleans). But he might have played a world leader once!

  4. 1. To my knowledge, I’ve never insulted anyone. Go back and read my posts, you’ll see.

    2. Yes, I volunteer on the Bennet campaign, and yes, I believe they know who I am on Pols. They’ve never complained — I’m pretty responsible.

    3. I think I make it pretty clear I don’t speak for anyone else but myself.  I use “IMHO” frequently.

    Nice try. Best wishes on your next post.

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