July 8th, 2009
02:05 PM ET
5 years ago

Emanuel faces liberal pressure over 'trigger' comments

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel came under fire from MoveOn Tuesday.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel came under fire from MoveOn Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The president's health care reform package - which has faced resistance from conservatives who oppose a public insurance option - came under attack from liberals yesterday, with most of the fire focused on White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel's apparent suggestion in a Wall Street Journal article published Tuesday that the White House would be willing to consider a "trigger" clause on a public option - to delay full implementation of the plan if insurance companies met certain conditions on coverage and cost - drew outrage from liberal members of Congress and MoveOn.org, which has poured millions of dollars into a campaign supporting the president's health care proposal.

Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona immediately sent a letter to President Obama denouncing the idea. And MoveOn - which has launched ad campaigns in recent weeks pressuring equivocal senators to support the president's plan, and a public option - quickly turned its criticism on the White House.

"Can you call the White House switchboard and tell them you're disappointed in Chief of Staff Emanuel's comments supporting the 'trigger'?" MoveOn asked in a message sent to supporters Tuesday. The e-mail included the number for the White House switchboard. "Tell them voters want a strong public health insurance option-not half-measures like the 'trigger.'"

Within hours, the president issued a statement from Moscow that did not mention the controversy, but stressed his support for a public option. The statement did not specifically mention - or rule out - the use of a "trigger."

"I am pleased by the progress we're making on health care reform and still believe, as I've said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest," he said. "I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals."

Yesterday afternoon, Emanuel himself headed to Capitol Hill, where he heard complaints from liberal lawmakers. The idea of a trigger option is popular with conservative Democrats - but according to Roll Call, legislators the chief of staff met with yesterday told him its inclusion in a final health care package would cost the proposal their support, sinking the measure.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman said Emanuel had said what members were hoping to hear. "He doesn't stand by the trigger," Waxman told Roll Call. "He said the president and his administration and he are for a public plan as one of the options."


Filed under: Health care • President Obama • Rahm Emanuel
soundoff (280 Responses)
  1. Craig Nazor

    Whatever is done MUST work. The insurance companies have had years to show that they actually care about the American people, and it is clear that they only care about money. So when they say, "trust us, we'll get it right this time," well, they obviously believe the American people have not been paying attention to their medical bills

    I've had enough of lies. We are the wealthiest country that ever existed, and we deserve a good, affordable healthcare system. The insurance companies will only change if they are forced to change. Anyone who can't see that has their head in the sand.

    July 8, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  2. Todd

    Even the democrats can't get along with the liberals.

    July 8, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. Forrest - Indiana

    The Obama administration and the Congress need to quit watering down the health care package promised during the campaign, and provide the universal health care option we desperately need.

    Although I was, and am, a strong supporter of the Obama administration, would it really be so terrible if we went with Hillary Clinton's option of opening up the existing health care options available to members of congress and other Federal employees to the rest of us Americans??

    July 8, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  4. Ted Tartaglia

    A public option is the only way to force insurance companies to compete. Without it, insurance companies will continue to operate as they do now gouging consumers and pricing healthcare out of the reach of many citizens.

    Kissing up to the insurance companies is not the way to go. No to any trigger mechanism.

    July 8, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  5. JJ in NY

    I certainly wouldn't buy a used car from this character .

    July 8, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  6. Chad

    You have control Dems! So please quit in-fighting and give us the legislation we need!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 8, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. Robert J

    So as usual the "enlightened" Republicans don't like a Democratic initiative (for whatever reason) and complain, complain, and complain but have not offered one viable / workable solutionto problem of millions of Americans having no health insurance and the ones who do have going broke paying for it. To ALL Republican-as Lee Iaccoa said,,, Lead / follow or get out of the way.
    PERIOD. We want actions not opinions!

    July 8, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  8. JA/TN

    America can finance illegal wars year after year, yet the word universal health care is nuclear

    July 8, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. chirs - strong public option

    if the DEMS do not pass this with a strong Public option they will ensure the return of the GOP as what is passed will be so weak it will not work and the GOP can say (rightfully so) "We told you it would not work"

    Finally Harry R. grows a pair and draws the line in the sand. We have already compromised with no "single payer". GOP need to compromise on Public option or just sit on their hands. I for one have no issue of it passing without a single GOP vote and if they want to fillisbuster let em so the Public can watch them. It would be just another marker for 2010 elections that the Public will not forget who stood with them and who stood against them and that goes for DEMS as well

    July 8, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. Nancy

    Sounds to me like the Obama administration is wising up to the fact that the country cannot afford national healthcare and they are starting to backpeddal on the idea. If you can't afford it don't buy it.

    July 8, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  11. dan

    Trouble in paraidise?

    July 8, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  12. Jay

    Corporate healthcare insurance/management companies are non-value added to patients. They only serve the companies whose employees health care they control to reduce the spend to healthcare providers. The Obama administration should consider the Canadian model including its ancillary components. This would mean drastic tort reform and the awarding of millions in malpractice lawsuits. As significantly, it would mean phasing out of corporate healthcare insurers and have all citizens participate in the federal system. We need to avoid selecting some aspects of national healthcare, but leave the system open to the left of employers through their insurers/management companies.

    July 8, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  13. J Black

    Are we to believe Rahm says what he wants without running it by obama lol. This game of theirs is not "change" just the same 'ole. The press should call them on it not be part of the pr strategy.

    July 8, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  14. illinoistom

    Moveon is a great contrarian indicator. If they are for it, Americans should be against it.

    July 8, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  15. Lynne D

    Obama promised to get a public option, but doesn't seem to want to follow thru on it. The Republicans need to suck it up and support a public option. As more and more people who have lost jobs eventually lose their health coverage, and are unable to find other affordable coverage, I think there will be more screaming for it.

    July 8, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  16. Steve (the real one)

    Why does "house of cards" come to mind?

    July 8, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. Jay

    Revision to last sentence – "theft" not "left."

    July 8, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  18. Phil

    Fascist...Bush...Oil... Look everyone, I'm part of the liberal movement! Here's the good news, you can also! Just repeat the above noted words whenever a political headline pops up.

    July 8, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  19. Fla.

    What are these legislators not understanding? The MAJORITY of Americans (72%!) want a public option included in the healthcare reform to increase competition. This includes ALL political affiliations.

    The so-called "trigger" option is unacceptable smoke & mirrors/political gimmick.

    The conditions to be met are vague & subjective with the trigger nonsense–"IF" being the operant word.

    Unfortunately, we know all too well nothing will get done in Washington if the public option is not implemented NOW for the American people, as we have indicated we want in this healthcare reform.

    July 8, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  20. Tony

    I am in total favor of a public option in a health care plan. If the Democratic Party doesn't have the stomach to stand up to the health care loby, then I need to find a new party.

    July 8, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  21. JM

    JMO, but the trigger option sounds like a good idea to me. It sounds as if with the trigger option that the White House is willing to work with those not on the side of the public option and that is a good thing.

    The public option is probably a good idea as long as it doesn't sink private carriers (I have a sibling that works in health insurance and they cannot afford to lose their job). If they can find a way to do the public option and still keep the private option working and viable then I'm all for it. However, if the public option is just going to cause a loss of jobs in the private sector of insurance then I am absolutely against it.

    July 8, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  22. Mark

    Wake up folks – Health Care does not need fixing.

    July 8, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  23. Gerry

    I knew that they would sell out to the big insurance companies.

    July 8, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  24. Christopher

    Ultimately, this is a ridiculous course. A "public option" is socialism and we are not, nor have we ever been, a socialistic state. Government has no business to be messing about in this issue. I mean, seriously, the screwed up social security so badly over the past 70 years, do you really want these idiots screwing around with your healthcare?

    July 8, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. D. Wright

    It only figures that the first comment from an administration official connecting fiscal responsibility with health care reform would get Democrats from the liberal left stirred to a boil. After all, anybody balking at full entitlements for every legal and illegal resident of the US is not preaching the president's gospel of spend, ignore criticism, and spend some more. The whole creed of the 'progressive' side of the Democrat Party is to leave the fully-employed to pay for not only this generation's excesses, but leave a staggering bill for our working children and grandchildren to pay down over their respective lifetimes. It is a shame that the Democrat Party decided it wanted to return to its roots as the party out of power in such quick order, for responsible Americans shall doubtless cast out these spendthrift fools at the earliest opportunity.

    July 8, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
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