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. blueken

    All I can say is, double cross. Health care reform has been on the agenda since 1915. If we can't pass anything more than a watered down compromise, then our government not longer functions for the people. American small business, if you don't let Washington know that you are sick of footing the bill for a health care system that doesn't work, than you get what you deserve. Democrats, what more do you need? If not now, when?

    July 8, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  2. I don't think so

    I work with Moveon and have this to say: If there is no public option there will be no second term.

    July 8, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. S Callahan

    Ouch...guess this shows Exodus 14:14 is at work...

    July 8, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. Sam I Am

    It's time for BOTH sides if the aisle to grow up and act like adults. No, boys and girls, you can't always have it your way. The idea of bipartisan governance is that conservatives and liberals have thoughtful and considered discussions about legislation and then find middle ground that works pretty well for everyone. The Republicans were arrogant and abused their majority for 6 years. They fell. Now the Democrats are in the same position. WIll they fall too? Of course they will. It's the way our political system works. How hard they fall, and how they behave depends upon how they behave right now. Let's stop all the nonsense, and get to work to find things that help the American people. There is an America outside the beltway. I know that's a surprise, but it's true.

    July 8, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. economist

    What? Isn't the supposed purpose of a public plan to provide an alternative to private plans so those very plans will need to face competition with which they cannot collude? If they simply can't run efficiently, then a public plan is necessary. However, if the threat of a public plan gets insurance providers operating efficiently, why would we need to actually have the public plan?

    July 8, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. Mississippi Mike

    So basically, the federal government is trying to bully the private sector into making moves that will cause their demise. Nothing shady about this...

    July 8, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. Larry

    I guess the honeymoon with the Obama administration is over. Perhaps now people in power will see what damage they have already done to this country.

    July 8, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. Jon Ralston

    The Democrats will sell out and continue to water down any proposal for real Health Care reform. After this whole process tens of millions of people will continue to be uninsured or underinsured, the insurance companies will still be in business denying care to people, and costs will continue to rise. Democrats = capitulation to corporate interests

    July 8, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  9. FL

    So, this is politics as usual. They say they will try to be bipartisan and say they are open to a "trigger" option that allows some time for the current system to make some changes before the gov't takes over and screws things up completely, but in reality, they will shove their liberal agenda down the throats of the public and blame the Republicans for everything that goes wrong. So sad that so many are duped by these people.

    July 8, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  10. Voice uv reesun

    If the end result isn't a public option for those dissatisfied with their existing insurance plan options, we'll be back having this same debate in five or ten years. The insurance companies have had plenty of opportunities to offer good coverage at affordable prices. As I see it, their time is up.

    July 8, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. Chris

    I am totally against Gov't run healthcare. If they can't run this country correctly, what makes us think they can run healthcare any better? Make it more affordable, yes, but keep your paws off my healthcare Obama!!!

    July 8, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  12. Michael

    Why is it so bad for there to be a trigger option? Just because it keeps it in the private sector it still accompishes the goal of lowering health care and enabling more people to get covered. If it does bring the costs down some then the ederal goverment may actually save money through it as Medicare will not be spending s much. Everyone needs to learn how to compromise their failure to do that in congress is why nothing got done during the Bush years. We tried to have a compromised immigration bill go through only to be attack by both sides.

    July 8, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  13. Rick C.

    and the spiraling downfall continues...*evil smile*

    July 8, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  14. Carl Justus

    The obstsructionists republicans will all they can so they can keep their hands in the insurance companies pockets. They (the republicans) understand one thing and that who pays them gets the results. The republicans will say the democrats will tax and spend, but the republicans will BORROW AND SPEND and leave the massive debts for the children of future generations and they think that is fine as long as they get their pockets filled now.

    July 8, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. Margaret

    "to delay full implementation of the plan if insurance companies met certain conditions on coverage and cost"

    I want to know what those conditions are! Because they are certainly not being met now.

    I'm getting to the point where I think we need to take all the politicians' health plan away from them so they can see what it's like for so many millions and millions of their fellow Americans.

    They aren't getting it!!!

    July 8, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  16. Donkey Party

    No public option for 72% of the public that want one? Why compromise? If the roles were reversed the last thing the RepubliCONS would be is bipartisan.

    July 8, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  17. Scott, Tucson

    We're already paying into a governmental health care program folks, it's called Medicare, and we're hit each payday with involuntary payroll deductions towards it. Just open it up to people of all ages and you have your heath care plan.

    July 8, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. the southern progressive

    pshaw... yeah... leaving the health of millions of americans up the private sector has worked so well in the past.. i mean, greed doesnt disappear overnight.. now does it?

    July 8, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  19. Chris

    I guess it is time for the President to remind all the folks that work for him that he is NO DRAMA OBAMA!!!
    This is the problem with politicians (DEMOCRATS) when the chief is away they feel they can just go saying willie nilly stuff.

    July 8, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  20. Charlie in Maine

    The government and the private insurance companies should embrace competition for it will work well for both. Consider how long it might take the Post Ofiice to deliver mail and packages if Fed Express and UPS wouldn't do it over night. And how much would it cost to send a package privtely if the post office wasn't so reasonable? Private insurance could offer more perks for those buying and the public option could offer a reasonable service at a reasonable price.

    July 8, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. What's Good for the Goose...

    obama makes fdr look like ronald reagan, so it's funny that obama is too 'mainstream' for some of the left-wing whackos.

    July 8, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  22. Happy in Arizona

    Something needs to be done with insurance companies but universal health care is NOT the solution. The salaries of insurnce administrators should be reduced just as salaries have been reduced to employees of companies. Insurance companies should be not for profit just as hospitals should be. It should not run itself as big business. What should be covered is not. People, too should not be running to the doctor for every sniffle but should only be going when there is something seriously wrong.

    July 8, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  23. Gerry

    All of you one termers got to remember that this health care reform concept has been around since 1947 when Harry Truman proposed universal health care in the USA. Take a big deep breath and relax. We may not get everything we want right away; it may take two or more attempts to achieve the reform we liberals want; but, I think that it is worth considering the lesson learned from the last attempt by the Clinton Administration: take what you can get and live to fight another day. This advice comes from none other than Senator Ed Kennedy and Sec of State Hillary Clinton. I think that these two officials have got a good handle on what is possible and what we should be doing to get some health care reform passed right away, rather that loose a big fight and have to wait another ten years.

    July 8, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  24. demwit

    I make 7.50 per hour.., so of course my employer will pay the 6 per hour it costs for my healthcare under Obama's mandate. Its a no-brainer!!

    July 8, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. wheresmycountry

    Could it be that despite their ultra liberal statism, the White House is actually seeing the light that it would be disastrous to drive the private insurers out of business.....which is what MOST DEFINITELY will happen with a public option?
    It flies in the face of logic to say that a government backed program is healthy for competition. No, it is not, because a government program is not subject to free market rules.
    We'll see if the White House stands up to the MoveOn silliness. I bet they cave.

    July 8, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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