July 8th, 2009
02:05 PM ET
9 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. Scott the Independent

    EMAIL THE WHITE HOUSE – they need to know there is wide spread support for the public insurance option and any congress or senate members opposing it need to know they will be loosing votes for that opposition.

    July 8, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. evelyn

    After vehemently denying that soaring health costs are inflated and profit based, the health care industry decides it can cut costs and restructure itself for all Americans. I say it's too late for them and 40 years of profiteering at the expense of our families lives. Oil, housing and health, this reeks of business as usual, and another generation is again held financial hostage.

    July 8, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. David W Pittman

    I want to do more research before I form my final opinions, but on first glance if this turns out to be a concession beyond the core values of the people's wishes on healthcare then it is a pure political stunt that is unacceptable.

    July 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  4. Susan, Macedon New York

    Like we'd believe the insurance companies would stick by any promises they made? I don't think so. They're worried now because of the possibility of competition and that's why they're offering to cut costs. Once that possibility fades away, it's back to business as usual.

    We need to get the public option NOW while it's still a hot button issue.
    If not, we will have missed an opportunity that may not come again for generations.

    July 8, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    the insurance companies hate the idea of gov. insurance .

    compatition is great it will make these companies have to compete
    with the Gov. I think it is sick that any company makes a profite to give to stock holders from health care . the only profite should be to pay wages to people in health care . doctors nurses and anyone who supplies care . it should not be charged to give money to stock holders or CEO's .
    so the government will start a program thaT ONLY CHARGES ENOUGH MONEY PER PERSON TO SUPPLY CARE .

    wow what a great idea

    July 8, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  6. Jay Rehak

    It's time the Democrats stopped playing footsie with the health insurance industry and do what we elected them to do: create a viable national health care system.

    It's time we had national health care in this country. If we can afford to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can certainly afford national health insurance.

    July 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  7. Gloria Smith

    Practically on the same day, President Obama was blindsided by his own vice-president Biden and chief of staff Emanuel. What is going on here? I support the President's public option and if you two can't then get out of the way and resign. You have to have courage and faith to follow this fearless leader who believes in the people and understands our needs.

    July 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  8. Steve

    Someone from this administration finally makes sense and of course all of the fruitcakes go nuts.

    July 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  9. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    So what is Obama really up to? A pattern is emerging where they suggest something, see how it flies in public opinion, then they backtrack. A lot of people criticized George Bush for saying he doesn't pay attention to polls but this is something of the oppposite end. BO seems to be afraid of offending Democrats. How can we come up with good policy if Obama will skewer his own plans to please his party? A strong leader he is not.

    July 8, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. Otis

    And this is where health care reform dies in committee.

    Next president, please.

    July 8, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  11. Jimmy the Greek

    The White House just blinked.

    July 8, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    More broken promises. How about some accountability, Barack? Never again will I vote for someone with so much talk and so little walk. I knew Hillary would have gotten this stuff done. Dangit!

    July 8, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  13. Helga Ostreg

    In my opinion, Rahm Emanuel is a HUGE problem.

    July 8, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. AndrewCPA

    How about put a limit on all the lawsuits that Drs have to deal with. Most Drs spend more money on malpractice insurance and they keep having to pay more each year and in-turn have to pass that on to us. To limit what could be awarded would lower that cost and the savings would be passed on to us.

    But oh no, Obama and left want to spend our b/c it will help a few and we all should feel warm and fuzzy for helping others. I am all for helping, but at the tune of $500B – $1.0T.

    Why should MoveOn be upset.... b/c they are wasting money or that Obama is going against them?

    July 8, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  15. Diane

    Okay – I don't get it. Why would anyone be against this "trigger"? If the plan forces insurance companies into competition, this will result in lower costs allowing more Americans to purchase insurance on their own and not rely on a government plan. I thought that was the idea. Am I missing something? I am one of those conservative Democrats. I don't see any reason not to support a plan that would result in the public getting what they need without further cost to the government. Can anyone explain it to me?

    July 8, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. JB - NYC

    Nothing to see here

    July 8, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  17. Morton

    This is yet another clear example of Mr. Emanuel's questionable catering to special interest groups. This time, by contriving "trigger" loopholes to be exploited. That is my opinion.

    July 8, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. Uncle Ellsworthy

    If MoveOn wants it, it cannot be a good thing for the folks out here. Just reminding you all.

    July 8, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. Shasta

    We've come this far, Obama. Please don't back down now.

    July 8, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  20. Gloria Smith

    The President was blind-sided with comments by both Vice president Biden and Chief of staff Emanuel regarding his health care proposal. I support the President's public option and invite them to support it and
    If they can't support this courageous President who understands our needs for health care reform that offers people like me a real option to the greed of the insurance industry, then I hope they have the integrity to get out of the way and resign.

    July 8, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. chris

    So, the liberals are mad because if the private sector can clean its self up and control costs, the feds will let it continue without government intervention? Isn't that kind of the whole point? Not every problem is solved by bigger and more expensive government programs.

    July 8, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. Roger T.

    Is Rahm Emanuel an American citizen? I heard he was a foreigner.

    July 8, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. Mike

    What was Emanuel thinking he should know that without a public option the democrats are going to go down in 2010. They have NO excuses anymore and we are tired of being used so they can get elected only to be disappointed. If not go ahead pas a trigger or co-op plan and watch what happens.

    July 8, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  24. JAY

    The government does not give you something for nothing , they
    always ask for more in return. ( more and higher taxes) and they
    won't give up their insurance plan for this one. As someone

    July 8, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  25. zippy

    now you libs see' obammas a lair. you dems are soory now

    July 8, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
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