“The president is not doing anything wrong,” Missouri Democrat Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “in fact, he should be praised for being audacious enough to bring this contentious issue to the public. And I think he has done a yeoman’s job in trying to articulate what this health care bill will do,”
That said, Cleaver said he thought Obama had underestimated the partisanship at play in the health care reform debate.
“I think that there is the possibility that the president can work with some Republicans,” Cleaver added, “and I think that he works with the ones who are interested in trying to get something accomplished.”
As for all of the anger, confusion, and anxiety over health care reform on display during many of the congressional town halls held in recent weeks, Cleaver said the public has some valid questions about reform.
“I think we need to make haste – slowly,” he said when asked about Sen. Joe Lieberman’s suggestion that the president put off trying to achieve near-universal coverage for all Americans. “By that I mean, we need to go back, erase some of the vagueness – or fill in the blanks where there is vagueness – and then begin the process of moving so that the American public understands that we’re not going to abandon them because of this outrage that we’ve heard in August. But, we do it slow enough that we can bring them along.”
Cleaver said how the hefty price tag for reform – estimated at nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years – would be paid for is a legitimate concern that many citizens have expressed in recent weeks.
Weighing in on an issue that exposed a fissure within his own party in the last week, the Missouri Democrat also said “if we take the public option off the table, we don’t have health care reform.”
But Cleaver also seemed to leave open the possibility that some, more progressive House Democrats might accept something short of inclusion of a public health insurance option in the final bill. Among the ideas being discussed are non-profit health insurance cooperatives that are likely to be included in the version of reform legislation being worked on by a bipartisan group of negotiators in the Senate Finance Committee.
“I don’t think the Progressive Caucus . . . will ever accept a health care plan that does not deal with the lack of competition between the health care companies,” Cleaver told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.