August 18th, 2009
10:45 AM ET
9 years ago

Liberal Dems 'stand in strong opposition' to Sebelius statement

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Leaders of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House sent a letter Monday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, telling her "we stand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is 'not the essential element' of comprehensive reform."

Responding to Sebelius' comments on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, the Democratic lawmakers warned that a health care bill without a public plan won't pass the House.

"Americans deserve reform that is real – not smoke and mirrors. We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies' good faith efforts to provide for our constituents," wrote Democratic Representatives Raul Grijalva D-Arizona, Lynn Woolsey D-California and Barbara Lee D-California.

"To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it."

Although the letter is only signed by the co-chairs of the congressional progressive caucus and the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, they also included a letter signed by 60 Democrats before Congress left for recess, which says a final proposal for the president's signature must contain a public option.

Because weekend comments from both Sebelius and the president himself have infuriated liberal Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to release a statement reaffirming her commitment to bringing a bill before the House with a public option, which is scheduled for September.

"There is strong support in the House for a public option," said the House Speaker, "a public option is the best option to lower costs, improve the quality of health care, ensure choice and expand coverage." (link to post on full statement sent earlier)

In fact, several House Democratic leadership aides tell CNN they believe the leaders of the House progressive caucus are right – they likely do have enough votes to block a health care reform bill in the House if it doesn't include a public option.

The problem for the White House is that in the Senate, Democratic leaders have believed for some time that they can't pass a health care bill with a public option – primarily because of concern not just from Republicans, but among conservative Democrats who worry it could hurt private insurance companies.

Senior Democratic sources tell CNN they believe the challenge is bigger in the Senate, and one senior Democratic source with knowledge of White House strategy told CNN many believed the timing was right for the White House to show it is "willing to be reasonable."

To that end, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid released a statement Monday through a spokesman echoing the weekend sentiment from President Obama and his HHS Secretary.

"Senator Reid supports bipartisan health care reform that cuts costs, and provides quality coverage to all Americans, and he recognizes there are different proposals on the table to accomplish this goal. He also knows that 60 votes will be needed to get anything done, which is why he will continue to assess the votes until Congress returns in September," said spokesman Jim Manley.

Filed under: Congress • Democrats • Health care • House
soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. Randolph Carter

    No public option = no reform. Have a nice day!

    August 18, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Bertina

    This just is so not helping. If they don't get that then they will help end any reform and this will be a repeat of 1993.

    August 18, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  3. joe

    Careful – It is interesting that as the Health care bill has had time to be digested (instead of being forced to a vote by Mr. Obama with little time to actually read the bill), many conflicting views have resulted due to the ambiguity of the language and my feeling is that if a bill is crafted with such ambiguous language that so much of it can be left open for interpretation, then it should not pass! Once we let the Government in, they will define it however they feel fit and whatever Mr. Obama is saying now he could easily go back on.

    August 18, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. SC

    As a black female Demo. I would like to see all that is on the table not just the public option....If it can work without the goverm. then let's at least look at it

    August 18, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. Ron In California

    The country we live in is moderate. Those on the far left and right continue to hijack everything. Here's a flash...why not start slow and make changes as you go and gain confidence in what does and does not work. We have all seen that once a Gov't program is implemented it never goes away even if it doesn't work.

    August 18, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. not smoke and mirrors

    while clearly the health insurance, and really the system in general, while doing the absolute minimum for the maximum charge to the consummer, needs an alternative

    but they (the health system in general) also need real policing... just the same way wall street clearly will soak us if they are not watched

    you put your faith in people and they disappoint, not everyday, but when they do, some of these private business people go to the extreme in their fleecing of the American people

    August 18, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  7. Kelly

    Are people afraid of the public option because it will give you more than what the insurance companies are offering and cause everyone to go to that plan? If that is the case then I can also assume that all of these polls that say people are happy with their current insurance plan is inaccurate.

    August 18, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  8. JS007

    I can't believe what I'm hearing: "primarily because of concern not just from Republicans, but among conservative Democrats who worry it could hurt private insurance companies" – DUH!!! If this does not hurt insurance companies then what is the point??? Are the Senators working for the American people or for the insurance companies? This is DISGUSTING. I just spoke with a friend who is 50 and she just had to drop her insurance after they doubled the premiums on her. If she were to get sick or get in a car accident she'd go bankrupt. And these crooks are thinking of the insurance companies???

    The co-ops are a stupid waste of time and money. Why create ONE public option when you can create hundreds of inefficient co-ops? Great plan!

    August 18, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  9. A. Goodwin

    Completely agree with liberal dems – WE NEED THE PUBLIC OPTION!!

    August 18, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  10. David from WI

    Odd how the liberal Dems does not seem to know the meaning of the word liberty.

    Keep up the fight moderate dems you know when you are right and what mainstream America wants and doesn't want.

    We need health care reform but do it smart and let those race baiting, senior bashing, police hating, CIA hating, Business destroying progressives liberal Dems fail.

    STAND UP to them they used to many Americans for far to long.

    Enough already with the attaching Americans from higher power people in govt.

    When their constituents speak and they don't listen or care then they are a true danger to our republic and need to be impeached or voted out in 2010 2012 and that is what is means to be Democratic after all.

    So much for a change in Washington. Are we not tired of the liberals dividing us?

    August 18, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  11. Obama 2.0

    At the end they better vote for whatever they can get!

    August 18, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  12. Mark in Atlanta

    Good to see we still have some congressional Dems who remember why we elected them. We need a public option. America wants a public option. Getting our healthhcare only from companies whose sole interest is maximizing profit makes no sense.

    August 18, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  13. stevie raymie

    trouble in paradise?

    watch "generation blame" toss this one on the "party of NO"

    maybe they will try some more Bush bashing
    yeah thats it blame bush...............

    interesting how this health care stuff dominates the news

    what about the wars and stuff

    August 18, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  14. Wake Up

    Let's not let the lazy libs ruin this country. Get a job and pay for your own health insurance. I'm tired of supporting the lazy and unwilling. I'll gladly help those disabled, but not the ones that choose not to be educated, and choose not to work extra jobs, and choose not save money!

    August 18, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. ike

    It will be a huge mistake for Obama administration not to allow the Public option in the health reform bill. President Obama should realise that it is a promise that must be kept with American people who made him president.

    August 18, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. Frank, Dayton, Ohio

    I wonder if the president's off-hand remark was an attempt to re-focus support for public option. By hinting that maybe it might be dropped, he re-ignited a debate on the subject within the total health care discussion that the Senate seemed ready to let die a quiet death.

    August 18, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. RR

    wrote Democratic Representatives Raul Grijalva D-Arizona, Lynn Woolsey D-California and Barbara Lee D-California.


    There's a reason they're not household names.

    August 18, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  18. Mike - NJ

    And the Dems fold to the pressure of the right once again. Dems can never unite and push legislation through like the republicans do. When are they going to realize that nothing is going to get done unless they are all on the same page... fighting for OUR public option!!! Stop caving and make this happen!

    August 18, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  19. bojan

    You scum will get nothing.

    August 18, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  20. J.P.

    Wow... these people are working extra hard to ensure they get a place in history right next to Jimmy Carter, of the votes that Americans most regret casting.

    Dems, just pack your bags now to beat the rush in 2010.

    Like 1980, this bunch is doing such a "good job," it will be a generation before we see another Dem President and Congress.

    August 18, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  21. Will

    Have a nice Day to the Public option. Fantastic...

    August 18, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  22. Sean

    It's nice to see that there are some Dems with a backbone and the moral integrity to at least state the obvious. Now let's see if they actually follow their promise up with the political will of a vote in that direction as well.

    August 18, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  23. Four and The Door

    Actually, this is working out just fine. With a firm stance on the Public Option, nothing is going to pass any time soon.

    Our economy is still on life support, not creating jobs and the country is up to its ears in debt already. A Public Option will be just another extremely expensive public program that we can not afford.

    Hopefully it will eventually come around to what the Republicans suggested in the first place. There are significant inefficiencies in our existing Health Care system that can easily be addressed without spending more money that we don't have. Doing these things will be a first step in a lasting, affordable reform.

    August 18, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  24. Rob

    And conservative Dems are saying a public option is not a workable part of the plan for them (reason prevails with them). You liberals can back off your conspiracy theories and rants about Republicans...the fact is that the moderate and conservative Dems see the problems with the public option that you do not.

    August 18, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. R in Maine

    You better have another job in hand if you think that opposing health care is a a good idea. If you look like a Republican and talk like a Republican, be assured that we will treat you like one and you will be gone.

    August 18, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
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