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. Carole

    After 8 years of Republic rule which did not even address health is time to take charge. People voted Dems in for a reason.

    Any Dems who are not Dems need to go to the Republican party now! Others like me will only donate to individual politicians, not the Democratic Party for fear our money goes to a Republican in Sheep's clothing, Blue Dawgs.

    August 18, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  2. R Wolf

    We finally have a Democratic president and a chance at some really important reforms that are focused on helping the disinfranchised, the elderly, the poor and the middle class. We even have a Democratic Congress, but they are about to mess everything up because it isn't perfect to their way of thinking. Stop making the little person suffer even more. Stop the infighting and pass this health care reform. Millions of Americans are depending upon you to do the right thing.

    August 18, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. Obama Victim

    ok....roll out those anti-Palin shots.......seems that's all you have pathetic................and sad

    August 18, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  4. Chris in VA

    Why does everyone think health care is a basic right? It is a service and should be paid for by those who use it.

    August 18, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. William, from CaLi!

    G.W.Bush said as much to Obama..."the same ones that stand with you now, are the same ones that will stab you in the back; when times get tuff"! Some of you-just wasn't listening..... too busy drinking "D-kool-aid"!

    August 18, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. Brian MacDougall

    Barbara Lee speaks for me!

    August 18, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  7. jaye

    Strap on the assault weapons (like the heathen republicans).
    Our country has turned into a raving mass of lunatics because of the republican party – they're destructive and get away with it.
    Stop being wimps, CNN, and report these idiot republicans and their lies.

    August 18, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  8. Randolph Carter, the evil narcissistic Obamabot

    I hope that each and every corporate tool blue dog gets denied treatment by a corporate insurance death panel. Have a nice day!

    August 18, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  9. Michael Shea

    I agree with Congressman Weiner that if President Obama doesn't stand behind a strong "Public Option" the whole effort is worthless.This will also be a prescription for the Democrats to lose their majority in 2010 and Obama to become a one term Presidnent.

    It's tome for Obama to lead and not be a back bencher. If the Congress sends him a bill without the public option he should VETO it!!!

    August 18, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  10. Grrr-awful-o

    The dems are fragmenting, but have no fear... it's all George Bush's fault. "We inherited the fragmentation from the previous administration."

    Can't we just get back to talking about Sarah Palin?

    August 18, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  11. eolufemi

    Hopefully they will continue to champion this necessary piece of reform. I suspect that the democrats will lose in the next election if they compromise on this issue. They have no idea how tentative support for them really is after their weakness during the Bush regime. They were able to blame Bush, but it's becoming clear that the vast majority of them colluded with republicans to drive this country into abyss. So, if they fold on this one issue, the democrats back will be broken for the forseeable future.

    August 18, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  12. didi

    public option is a must in health care reform....don't be stupid....wake will never work...pass health care reform with public option.

    August 18, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  13. Mike Wasinski

    Yes! Democrats are finally discovering their backbone!

    August 18, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. Blue dog Dems are just jack ass repubs in hiding

    Thank God for REAL DEMOCRATS who know what the country needs and are willing and have the backbone to stand up to the republican dogs and fight for the right thing. You won't be forgotten at election time. WE THE PEOPLE WILL STAND UP WITH YOU IN THE FIGHT FOR TRUE HEALTH CARE REFORM AND THE PUBLIC OPTION.

    I can't tell you REAL DEMOCRATS how DISAPPOINTED I AM IN PRESIDENT OBAMA and his lack of concern for the people who voted him into office that he would just turn his back on us in this health care reform. The public option is SO very important and yet he is so willing to let it fall by the way side just to appise the republicans who are supporting the insurance companys in this fight.


    August 18, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. Tired

    I say Pres. Obama should forget about health care reform. All the people that are unemployed, soon to be unemployed, self-employed with no or little health care will suffer even more. Since they did not see fit to fight for something that will benefit them – too darn bad. I'm sick of people that will allow the wealthy to tell them what they are not entitled to. If they are opposed to "socialized" govt. intervention, they should also refuse medicare and social security. Perhaps just listening to Hannity, McCain, Limbaugh, and all the other rich no-sayers who have great insurance plans will make them feel better while they're dying. Put up or shut up!

    August 18, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  16. donttreadonme

    Make no mistake about it, the liberals dems want to take their slice of the healthcare pie! This will give them unprecedented power to control a major portion of the Healthcare industry that represents 1/5 of our total economy. We can fix what is wrong without a total take over, don't believe the hype!

    Just curious why was it not mentioned that the dude carrying the assault rifle was a brother?

    August 18, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  17. RJ- GA.

    There be No Real Health Reform without the Public Option !

    August 18, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  18. Jefe

    Call me a Socialist all you want, but I believe in the free market (with some regulation), except in certain absolute essentials.

    Utilities – they generally need to be subsidized and regulated to an extreme degree as it is for them to function

    Roads – I know many on the extreme right are against all forms of socialism, but honestly – the privately-owned road system in this nation is short at least a few hundren thousand miles worth of asphalt.

    Healthcare – there is no possible way for any government to run healthcare less efficiently than the health insurance industry. $50 for a Band-Aid anyone?

    Military – we've seen what private militaries do. Blackwater: shooting citizens dead in the streets of New Orleans, and perpetrating image-destroying atrocities against humanity in Iraq. Fantastic.

    August 18, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. Jack in Florida

    STAND YOUR GROUND!!! Don't be swayed by the radical right......a public option is definitely needed. With the media coverage of these town hall meetings, I have come to believe that the radical right with the Limbaugh's, Hannity's and Beck's of the world are nut jobs................ Their behavior is incredible and they listen to the bla bla bla of these mouth pieces........especially when they come to the meetings armed....What has our world come to??

    August 18, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  20. One vote

    I am so relieved to read this – and I have no doubts that Democrats who stand up to fight for the public option will be rewarded come election time. The public option is in my opinion an absolute must.

    August 18, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. ivo

    I don't understand either one of you left wing liberals and right wing conservatives; have you ever heard of the word compromise? You'll keep screaming at each other untill we are stuck with another failed health care initiative. I am from a continent where we have "big government" and guess what; we all have health care. I am from a continent where health care practitioners are somewhat protected from frivolous lawsuits and gues what? It is affordable.
    And is a non profit health care coop not a compromise? If you voted for Obama, you voted to change politics in America. It clearly has not changed. But I don't think Obama is to blame.

    August 18, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  22. gt

    most of those rep. want regular tax payers to pay for the ins premiums so that those in there districts can get a free ride ,,, check out and see how much gov, money goes to these crime ridden districts....

    August 18, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Jose Awesome


    Maybe we can get the ball rolling on torpedoing Grassley, GOP obstructionist in chief.

    August 18, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  24. Truth

    No public Option means no reform

    Fail for America, Win for Insurance Industry.

    August 18, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  25. Tony

    I love it, no bill!!!!! These knuckleheads who want to create 45 more departments for this sham health care debacle, need to hold to their "principles" That will immediately doom this mess. KILL THE BILL!!!!!

    August 18, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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