August 18th, 2009
10:45 AM ET
5 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. Mike in MN

    This is great. No bill will pass in the House unless it includes a public option. No bill will pass in the Senate if it includes a public option. Polls show a majority of voters do not want it.

    Obama messed up big time. I believe he wanted the version of the bill in house that has a public option and a complete takeover of private insurance and cost be dammed. He knew voters would not want the very liberal House version, so he needed it passed in a big hurry before voters found out what was in it. But it did not work that way. The voters found out and let their Representatives and Senators know what they thought. The process stalled because the majority of voters do not want the crap that Obama and Pelosi want.
    Obama is stuck now. Willfully cram down the throats of voters a version of health care reform they do not want, or rewrite the bill and pass a version the majority of voters will accept but that the liberal wing of the Demcrats, including Obama do not want. He loses either way.

    August 18, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  2. Michael

    Want to lower health costs then stop allowing so many lawsuits because someone expierenced a side effect they knew about before hand. It is the endless malpractice suits that drive up costs.

    August 18, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. conniesz

    It's time the real Democrats stand up and demand the public option. This is one of the primary reasons so many of us worked so hard to get Obama elected. Make the Republicans filibuster – force each and every member of congress to come out for or against a public option. Do not let them run and hide. And after all is said and done, we will work as hard as we every have to defeat those turn coat Dems who are against what the people want. Do not let them hide. It is better to get nothing out of this than to get the kind of "reform" the Republicans and chicken Dems are aiming at. Let's make this an all or nothing fight – because anything less than a plan that includes a public option is already nothing at all.

    August 18, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. SD, Michigan

    Why didn't they give the HHS Secretary job to Howard Dean? He's the most competent on healthcare, he has a vision and he can lead.
    But nooo, cuz Rahm doesn't like him..
    When Kathleen Sebelius speaks, you can't even tell if she's awake or still sleeping.

    August 18, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  5. Michael

    Plenty of private companies compete with the government. See UPS and FedEx as great examples. The thing is they have to offer differentiated products. Health insurers, with a few exceptions, don't offer differentiated products. They are high overhead companies that offer remarkably similar products with no differentiation. In a true free market if you offer a commodity product while having high overhead, you go out of business. The current players in the insurance industry have lobbied to maintain their oligopoly. New providers will emerge that differentiate–Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, even Kaiser Permanente are good examples–but it won't be the incumbent insurers. They have only 2 core competencies, lobbying and managing actuarial risk by rejecting high risk customers better than the competition. Take those two things away and they could never survive in the marketplace.

    August 18, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  6. Angie in PA

    I agree No Public Option NO REFORM Like Howard Dean said for those of us that Favor Public Option President Obama Needs us the Campaign has not ended Just because he won. It just started MAKE YOU VOICES HEARD! Just like you did to get him Elected!

    August 18, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  7. Doreen Rutman

    I am in the legal field and have read the above article – please understand that we all need to know what it really is saying. " Willing to be resonable" does not mean that they have to be – it is only stating that they are willing to.

    Why does the article not just say "Government runned health care", which is Socialism, instead of "Health care reform". We all want reform but not at the cost of our freedom.

    August 18, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  8. Blembergmd

    No one is addressing just where will the government find doctors willing to work longer hours for less compensation. A government plan backed by the resources of all us taxpayers will have an unfair advantage. I would rather deal with several sources than a single,omnipotent,payer. By the way, as a 66 year old MD, I now work 60+ hrs a week. Also, because I work long hours, I do make over $250,000 a year and I pay far more for my medicare than my employees' health plan which is far better.How much more is the government going to penalize me for working?

    August 18, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  9. Dave

    Get your hands out of my pockets you left wing loonies!
    No Public option...no more debt...
    Try fixing social security and the other broken government programs before you launch into something new.

    August 18, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. Angie in PA

    DEMOCRATS UNITE!
    Take down these Lobbysit and Special Interest take down these radical Right wingers who never supported Obama anyway and never will! Remember What President Obama said during the Campaign DONT LET THE LOBBYSIT DROWN OUT OUR VOICES! Its time to come together SUPPORT THE PRESIDENT!

    August 18, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  11. Matt

    So if I am reading these comments correctly... "progressive" is now the code word for "far left" and "moderate" is the code word for "liberal"... I guess this makes the centrist positions popular with normal Americans a conservative opinion. It is kind of impressive how quickly "progressive" have isolated and insulated themselves from what the rest of us consider to be American virtues of independence, hard word and making the most of any opportunity.

    August 18, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  12. yuri

    Now that the gun-totin' GOP gangsters are proudly displayin' their fire power, a Dem group may toy w/ the idea of drivin' an anti-missile shield carryin' vehicle to bulldoze thru those hooligans, just ot make their point.

    August 18, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. stop allowing so many lawsuits

    I don't believe it

    I think it has to do with the management of the patient in general

    we are treating the patient like a cow now, giving them15 minutes with a doctor, quick questions, quick diagnosis, no one is responsible, if you don't like it that is not the systems responsibility, you could have gone elsewhere

    accountability is non existent, with each peice, the insurance pushing, the hospitials pushing, the doctors pushing away from taking responsibility as much as the law will allow while raising prices through the roof

    don't blame lawsuits, what a cop out, the system needs reform badly

    August 18, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    The GOP is just afraid of the private insurance industry dying because they have no idea which desk they will have to crawl under if it's not an insurance CEO's.

    August 18, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  15. a progressive liberal and proud of it

    The best way to solve the insurance crisis in this country is to provide Medicare for all. That isn't even being allowed in the conversation. So, we progressives, have been willing to compromise with a public option to create competiion for insurance companies and to keep them honest. Now the powers that be are telling us that they're going to take out the public option as well??? NO! We did not vote for Obama, we did not vote for Democrats in large numbers in Congress so that we can be sold down the river by both!

    No public option? Then I say, NO HEALTH CARE REFORM DURING OBAMA'S TERM! If that means that Democrats lose political power (again) SO BE IT! That's the price they are going to have to pay for putting the interests of the insurance companies above the interests of the American people!

    August 18, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "Want to lower health costs then stop allowing so many lawsuits because someone expierenced a side effect they knew about before hand. It is the endless malpractice suits that drive up costs."

    If people would bother to educate themselves, abominable statements like this wouldn't occur. Most states have tribunals with gatekeeper functions that prevent cases from even reaching court if lacking in sufficient merit. Here in MA, for example, the tribunal is a doctor, a lawyer and a judge who hear evidence to determine whether it is actually a malpractice case or mroe along th elines of an unfortunate medical result. The reality is, insurance companies are behind the drive to get rid of these lawsuits or limit the recovery available in them because it means they can keep your premiums the same and rising while paying the big shots more money. Malpractice suits serve a vital function in keeping professionals honest, ethical and adequately skilled and it is severely damaged by reducing the liability to which they are exposed. Moreover, it damages the rights of the person who suffered for that professional's lack of professionalism.

    August 18, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  17. native son

    How do you think the Government can run healtqh care when it is like Obama said. The U.S.Postal Service cannot compete with Fed Ex and UPS. Of coure, Obama's comment was purposed to mean that the private sector will still be able to compete and Fed Ex and UPS are the example. Nonsense. The government can't compete with the private sector and they would end up taking complete control to make the public plan viable. Not because of expertise, but because of power the public option would become our only option. Then because of the fact it is nearly impossible to fire Government workers there would be no accountability for the lethargic product we would end up with. You can't let the Government run programs because we can change the Congress every two years and President every four years but the bureacracy becomes too powerful once entrenched.

    August 18, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  18. Co-op illusion.........

    People must understand........Republicans disagree with a public Government option because shareholders, investors and lobbyists who would typically be able to influence or sway the public health option system (like the proposed co-op system) for cotinued coordination of a premium price setting monopoly.....would NOT be able to do such. Do not believe the co-op non profit "gimmick". It will not solve our health dilemma. If Insurance companies haven't solved the raising premium dilemma and pre existing condition exclusion problems from the past to this day....What makes us think we should leave up to them to resolve now???? If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck......it is a duck.....quack...quack.....

    August 18, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  19. franco

    Hey liberals, why stop with health care; why not have a public option to compete with grocery chains, restaurants, McDonalds, and hey how about hair salons, department stores; let's do a public option to compete with Walmart! What a country!!

    August 18, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  20. DL

    To these people who keep crying 'tort reform and lawsuit caps" many states have had those for YEARS you don't realize it because they DON'T work...do your research and stop spreading an uneducated 'opinion'.

    And those of you that think the insurance companies will behave ethically and work together...remember Katrina, didn't they work great together then? People paid in their whole lives and lost everything, because they changed the technicalities of their policies on them. The people up in arms wanting reform has seen this in their health policies, what makes you think you will be the exception? They are fighting for your health care future to, so stop being a lump and think for yourselves.

    August 18, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  21. LIP

    Smoke and mirrors?
    No smoke and mirrors about the facts. Does the US Postal Service make any money?
    Is Social Security going to make it out of the woods?
    Is Medicare going broke?
    Is the 1 Billion dollar car/junk program working? Are the dealers being paid yet?
    Is the Stimulus plan working with only 5% of the money spent and the remainder slated ironically for just before the next election?
    Do the math and when you are done, vote these nitwits out of office before they take the country down a road well traveled with failed policies.

    August 18, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "the fact is that the moderate and conservative Dems see the problems with the public option that you do not."

    The only problem the Blue Dogs see is that they got themselves elected by a constituency that has more uneducated conservatives who believe all the GOP and insurance lobbyist's lies than most Dems' constituencies have, and they want to get re-elected. The reality you guys are failing to grasp is that it's not th eliberal Dems who are in precarious positions with their re-elections right now...it's the Blue Dogs...and that's what's driving their opposition. Think on it. If the GOPers replace anyone in 2010, it'll end up being the ones they would rather have stayed.

    August 18, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. Roger in CA

    Gaaah!!! Don't BLOW IT, idiots!!!

    August 18, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  24. Deborah/Kansas City

    No matter what is in the bill the Republican's will not support it. They have already said as much. When asked if the Public OPTION is not in the bill will they vote for it? They have all said no. PLEASE DEMOCRATS don't let us down. We put you in office to do this. The Blue Dogs should just go back to being Republicans.

    August 18, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  25. RLE

    this is why democrats don't stay in office, and I am a registered democrat, because they don't know how to stick and work together they are more interested in their own agenda like Weiner. Instead of trying to hammer out a bill that will pass they have drawn lines in the sand. the blue dogs say:" if it contains public option we won't support and the liberals who say if it doesn't have a public option we won't support. My advice is to get on the same page and support the president, this is ridiculous and if they have something they disagree with, do it behind close doors, stop airing out dirty laundry in public.

    August 18, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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