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. JC

    Seriously! what is the point of having health reform if there is no public option? Just so we can put "Mission Accomplished" banner up and pat ourselves on the back? If we are not going to get public option, I say lets take James Carville's way. Let the republican go to fillibuster (if they think they can do it) More likely they wouldnt dare to vote no on giving everyone a chance to life or at least we can say "Dont blame us. Its the republicans who killed it"

    August 18, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. Mississippi Mike

    Push it through now!!! Don't read it just sign!!! It's in your best interest to do this!!! Sounds a lot like what the sub-prime mortgage lenders were saying doesn't it? The only reason why you act that way is because you know that the persone you are forcing into the agreement wll flat out reject it if they read it and/or have time to mull it over.

    August 18, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  3. Chris

    Public Healthcare is the best option. Healthcare does not work as a free-market economy even if you increase competition (supply side tinkering) because the consumer can not control demand for healthcare. The consumer must have the best care available when it is needed and this eliminates the consumers ability to control demand. The consumer can control demand in most other markets such as autos where the consumer has many options – buy a new car, a cheap used car, a scooter, take the bus instead,... Consumer control over demand keeps prices low and quality high. In healthcare, the consumer can not control demand (you need the best care when it is necessary) and this is why insurance premiums and costs have increased rapidly over the last decades. It should be a social program administered by the government and nothing else will control costs.

    August 18, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. Lois

    It is very comforting to see the Liberals finally getting "it". Obama wants to destroy this country. I know they may sound mean but I truly believe he hates what America stands for.

    August 18, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. ronbw

    So far we have the whitehouse be "reasonable" only with the conservatives. The president has bent to the will of the bluedogs in the house, and has shown willingness to bend to the will of Sen. Grassley, who said he wouldn't vote for the bill even if he gets all his concessions.
    What more do the republicans want from the whitehouse?

    August 18, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  6. D from SC

    Just as taking a child to the dentist, he is going to kick and scream about the whole thing. But, once the dentist is done boy does that kid have a great mile and healthy teeth.

    This time we need to do what is best for the child (America), even if it means he comes kicking and screaming (Republicans).

    August 18, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Sam Sixpack

    Without the "public option" there is no way for Big Pharma to get their "pie" back. Under the bush administration, Big Insurance was let in on Big Pharma's Medicare gravy train. With a "public option," Big Pharma can get "their" pie back – and maybe, in the long run, get all of Big Insurance's pie too.

    The only thing in this "reform" for you and me is the new requirement that that everyone give all they can "afford" to fat, greedy, rich insurance executives.

    August 18, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  8. Cromwell

    I agree with the Progressive Caucus.
    A bill with no Public Option is a cop-out.

    The Democrats have the votes to pass a Healthcare bill. The Republicans are just stonewalling. There will never be bi-partisan support for a Healthcare bill. The Dems should pass a bill with a Public Option and let the Repubs howl.

    August 18, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. Don

    This is all about getting services to illegals. They know they can manage a loophole that will put the burden of health care for illegals on American's backs.

    August 18, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  10. Maria - Proud Democrat

    Why can't we have the same Health Care plan Congress has?

    If the Public Option Plan is so great why isn't Congress being placed on that plan?

    My fellow Democratic Congressmen and women need to lead by example and agree to opt out of their current health care plan and switch over to the Public Health Care option being proposed.

    August 18, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. Chipster

    Well, that all may be well and fine for Senator Reid but those of us who worked hard, contributed, held house parties, sent newsletters, and walked door to door with candidates so that Democrats would have the votes to achieve the change that this country needs, are not going to take kindly to a Democratic majority that fails to bring about real reform.

    If Democrats are incapable of leadership, then we've wasted our effort. Without a public option, there is no reason to bother because health care costs for the uninsured will continue to rise and prevent economic recovery.

    Senator Reid, if you can't or won't give the President the support he needs to achieve the changes the nation needs, then pack up your toys and go home.

    August 18, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  12. Fair is Fair

    Obama is in a most precarious position.

    The far left wing is trying to control his party. The centrists, who really reflect the will of the majority of Americans, are standing strong.

    With respect to healthcare – if there's a public option, it won't pass. If there's no public option, it won't pass. Either way, it's the democrats who cannot get their act together. If they cannot come to concensus within their own party, how can they expect bipartisanship?

    The bottom line is that Obama, who has made healthcare a cornerstone of his presidency, is the one who's going to take the hit. You cannot blame the republicans for this.

    August 18, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  13. Kevin in Ohio

    It is crystal clear.... the Liberal Left is the problem. Reform, yes. Big government and unfair comptetition that will lead to forced participation in a public option....NO.

    August 18, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Looks like someone got and read the memo: the reform must contain a public option. The way it stands the insurance companies have nothing short of a monopoly in regards to the services they provide, premiums, deductibles, and coverage. the public option would provide them with an 'outside'competitor forcing them to lower/reevaluate the cost to the consumer of doing business with them. The public option, from what I've read, would actually in giving the consumers another choice, make the insurance companies more competitve.

    I understand that compromise may be necessary, however, the public option should be a non-negotiable point.

    August 18, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  15. Nancy - Houston

    Doesn't the word "option" mean one has the option to do so... or not to do so? If citizens want to use a public option plan, they can; those who wish to use private insurers can do that. The public option is absolutely necessary to keep costs competitive. I hope Howard Dean's thoughts on health reform get a lot more media attention. He's very knowledgeable and can matter-of-factly and diplomatically explain well those things which would work and not work and why they would or would not work. Obama (and others) explains the plan very well also, but the rabble-rousers try and drown them out. It would seem reasonable that any intelligent citizen, whether Dem or Repub would at least want to hear about the reform.....that is, unless they have ties to the insurance industry.

    August 18, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  16. Larry Kraus

    Not only do I support a public option I would love to see a single payer option. I am tired of hearing people say we have the BEST HEALTH CARE in the world when we are in the mid 30's. We are a joke in health care. Why is it that we develop medicines but we pay more then anybody else does for those medicines? We should reap the benefits while the rest of the world should pay for the bulk of that process. I am mad as hell about this plank of the Obama platform. If he can't get this through the way he campaigned on it then he should make sure that those who voted against him are replaced in 2010.

    August 18, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  17. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I agree that a public option needs to be included. I would suggest that it be limited to those that have been rejected for pre-existing conditions and those with high cost plans that they can't really afford.

    August 18, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. robert diogenes

    Keep up the fight. Don't give up. THE FACTS BEHIND THE NEWS Medicare and all he facts point show the necessity of a public option. A public option that like medicare is open to all and will be efficient and less costly than private plans. .

    It would be even better TO DO AWAY WITH ALLTHE PRIVATE INSURANCE PLANS with the exception of employer plans for employees.

    Coops are not a substitute. See the connectors in Mass. Substitute plans have not been successful.

    While you are at it how about letting the gov't negociate drug prices. Let's help the patients. The drug co's don't need protection.

    August 18, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  19. WIll 18E

    This comes as shock from the Director of Health and Human services.
    For a fact there is a "Public Option" for medicare for all those Americans who turn 65 and never vested in social security or medicare. Today the premium for a 65 year old woman to buy a Medicare policy is $400.00 a month.

    This option exist for there is no private option that is reasonably feasible.

    August 18, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  20. Torch

    The USS Obamacare is listing at 35 degrees and the Coast Guard is worried she'll roll over and succumb to the deep.

    August 18, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. Lynda

    I would be so disappointed with Obama if he took the public option off any solution they come up with. I doubt he would ever get my vote again. I gave him my vote because he said "CHANGE" and I chose to believe him. I'd rather he fail than back down.

    Private insurers are out for profit, not for the welfare of all Americans. That's fine, I don't have a problem with it. However, those of us who don't want to be held hostage to their profit margins or who can't afford health care for our families are not so crazy as to think they would come up with a option for us. If they had the drive to do so, they would have already. 35 million people are a lot of potential customers they have thrown away as not worthy, so who in their right mind would expect anything different now.

    August 18, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  22. tad

    the congress and the president are now fighting over a bill or a part of a bill that most americans and washington do not totally understand. I "think" I and most citizens would like for the process to slow down and allow everyone(including congress) to read or at least have more time to become more familiar what is in this 1100 page bill. the people i live, work and play with are most upset because our elected officials have not read the bill and are either firmly for it or completely hate it. how do you form such an opinion on a subject you do not completely understand?

    August 18, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  23. Melissa

    Give us a public option. Please. I'm willing to pay premiums if it means a public option. I do not want to be robbed by the insurance companies any longer.

    August 18, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  24. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Then Liberal Dems stand in strong opposition to being re-elected next year. They just don't seem to get it that people are catching on that the country just can't afford to waste trillions of dollars on yet another entitlement program.

    August 18, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
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