September 6th, 2009
07:35 PM ET
5 years ago

'Why should the liberals always cave?' Dem asks


(CNN) - A liberal Minnesota Democrat who has been an outspoken proponent of the public health insurance option fired a shot over the White House's bow Sunday in the Democratic Party's escalating internal feud over health-care reform.

In an interview on CNN's State of the Union, Rep. Keith Ellison laid down the battle lines for President Barack Obama, whose White House is wedged in the middle between conservative Senate Democrats and the conservative House Blue Dog Coalition and liberal House Democrats.

"Why should the liberals always cave?" Ellison said when confronted with the prospect that Obama might ask the liberal members of the party to compromise.

Asked what he would like for the president to say Wednesday in a joint address to Congress that will focus on health care, Ellison stuck to his guns.

"He could say, 'You know what, the public option is essential to reform.' He could say that a public option is the only thing that's going to hold insurance premiums down. . . . He could say that a public option with a large provider network is going to help promote better medical practices based on evidence. So, I'm hoping that he understands the essentiality of the public option."

Ellison rejected outright the idea of bringing a public health insurance option into the insurance market through a so-called "trigger" that would kick in years after passage of a health-care reform bill and only if the private insurance industry failed to meet certain benchmarks relating to coverage and cost.

Ellison said private insurers wielded substantial market power "in nearly every major metropolitan area" that gives companies the ability to set premiums at high rates.

"How are we going to get them down? By introducing three things: competition, choice and a competitive price. I don't know how any conservative can be against those three things," he said.

Ellison also said Sunday that non-profit co-ops, an idea under consideration in bipartisan negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee, also would not suffice in his view because they would not have large enough provider networks.

The Democrat also told King that co-ops should not be used out of an anti-government mindset.

"Let's stop this ideological commitment to bashing government," he said

Ellison also encouraged Obama to use reconciliation, a special Senate procedure relating to budgetary legislation, in order to get a bill passed with a bare majority - likely all Democrats - in the Senate.

Ellison's comments were directly at odds with remarks Sunday from two of his fellow congressional Democrats.

Also on State of the Union, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson suggested use of a triggering mechanism on the public health insurance option as a compromise, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar appeared open to the proposal but said she wanted to know more about the benchmarks that would be used to activate the trigger.

Both Democratic senators also told King that they favored a more bipartisan approach to health-care reform in their chamber that would garner the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster and both suggested that use of reconciliation would not be the best course of action.


Filed under: Health care • State of the Union
soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Bush never caved. Even when he and his party had control of the entire government, including the Supreme Court, he was stomping and whining until he got everything he wanted. And he called that being 'bipartisan' by bullying democrats into giving him everything. Perhaps it's time Obama changed tactics as well. Instead of actual bipartisanship and compromises, he should too just throw a tantrum until he gets everything and then AFTER-wards he should call it 'bipartisan.'

    September 6, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    That trigger should have been activated 10 years ago when health care cost to citizens (read that profit to Corporations) starting increasing every 6 months or so.

    Waiting decades is NOT rushing it. It's way past due.

    Give us public option. If that doesn't work, then let Ins. try their hand again – with major regultions.

    September 6, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  3. marty

    Hoping that Republicans would work with Democrats in good faith for the very best interests of the U.S. CITIZENS and not their party is an exercise in futility. It won't be long that another unimportant, picayune incident will happen to a Democratic official which will be blown out of proportion ad nauseam by the Republican faithful....or shall I say ....Christians? Also, be careful of what you wish for....there are numerous stories of wealthy individuals who have been stricken with a horrendous illness, confined to an expensive Nursing home, until medical insurance and finances run dry. Many are relocated and all apply for Medicaid, that nasty government plan. And, whatever Health plan is finally decided upon should apply to everyone....Congress included. We pay for their insurance...it should be the same as ours.

    September 6, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    MAJOR Regulations. (typo)

    September 6, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    What blows me away is how many people fall for the Republican's incredibly obvious diversionary tactic of fear-mongering, manipulation and lies.

    The Republican's ideas and policies are proven failures:

    - 30 years of voodoo, tinkle-down economics that resulted in real income loss, massive debt and worldwide financial collapse
    - Iraq
    - Afghanistan
    - Osama bin Laden still on the loose
    - Worldwide financial collapse
    - Inept response to Katrina
    - Trampling the Constitution (warrantless wiretapping, etc.)

    The list goes on and on ...

    All the GOP can do is try to make President Obama fail – because they've got nothing to offer!

    The list goes on and on!

    September 6, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  6. lou

    Liberals should "cave" because they are wrong on virtually every issue. Conservatism is the way to go for longevity. The more "liberal" people the more "anything goes" until there is nothing left – which is the point – there is NOTHING on the LEFT side that makes sense.

    Being a liberal means "its all about me" and that cannot work in a civilized society. Being conservative means you take care of yourself first then help others with what is left over. Being Liberal means "give me what you have so I don't have to work for my own bread."

    It is no coincidence that conservative are called "right" and liberals are not.

    September 6, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    All the right wing fringe can do is lie and create fear and hate, and the Moderate Conservatives, Progressives, and Independents have heard it from their mouths for months now.

    They are toast, and they're heading for a major burn.

    September 6, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  8. Loose Cannon Liberal

    They should not, health care for instance should be a right of every citizen in this country, not a priviledge. The true Christian way of living is you cannot keep it unless you are willing to give it away. Our country has way too many selfish, self seeking people. Somehow, someway we have to fix Social Security and Healthcare or this country and our children will pay a terrible price, just like GM and Crysler has.

    September 6, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  9. mytabloids

    Indeed. Why is the man who was elected in a landslide, who had a 70% approval rating, so ready to give in to big business? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Obama has the foxes guarding the hen house on Wall Street, he's expanding our insane war in Afghanistan and he's ready to sell out any chance for real health care reform. That's change I DON'T believe in.

    Can we get someone to redo that famous campaign poster? I think WIMP will fit very nicely where HOPE did before.....

    September 6, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  10. Chris from NY

    Amen brother!

    September 6, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  11. ran

    President Obama can give the GOP everything they want and they will never vote for it because the GOP do not want this president to succeed at any thing meaning they do not want the people to succeed.

    Because of the above reality, I say to the President and Democrats: give us a single payer non-profit universal health care. Then, go on to energy and immigration. If the GOP want to help good if not okay and get things done anyway you can if that means 51 votes the so be it.

    I have had enough of the GOP childish behavior and want our elected officials to get things done. In sports once a play is made all team members are expected to make it work. That is how it should be in politics as well; but no the GOP will do all they can to make sure the play does not work.

    September 6, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  12. Julio

    Folks,

    I hope that prseident Obama remembers How he got elected.

    53% Americans are waiting the president to deliver his promises.

    A health care reform without a public option is not a reform at all.

    Why the president is looking for republican approval to do what is right for American people?

    He knows they are not going to agree with any proposal at all.

    Pass the health care reform without republican will be beneficial for the middle class Americans who can't afford to pay the actual premium.

    Republicans have said they need a "White GOP Party" to take over the nation why waiting for them?

    Are you the president or something else?

    September 6, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  13. mike

    That is what I have been wondering too!

    September 6, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  14. Chuck

    The insurance companies are expected to meet certain benchmarks related to coverage and costs, MY EYE!!!!!!! That will never happen and we all know it. They've rulled for decades and will not cease and desist from their immoral and criminal practices. CONGRESS, ENACT THE PUBLIC OPTION INTO LAW AND DO IT SOONEST BEFORE CATASTROPHE BEFALLS MILLIONS MORE OF OUR CITIZENS.

    September 6, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  15. thomas

    Liberals must always cave because both Democrats and Republicans are supported by the same big corporations. The job of the Democrats is to look like the good guys while compromising at the last minute. The job of Republicans is to be the bad guy all the time. They both work on the same team. They pass the ball to each other to make a good show. In reality, there was never going to be any PUBLIC OPTION. Unfortunately, nobody works for the people.

    September 6, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  16. ED FL

    Because you are so ridiculous in the stupid matters and suggestions that you come up with . It is Cheneyism [MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY,] I am an 80 year old democratic supporter and straight ticket voter all my adult life except for 22 yrs in the navy which at times we were not able to vote. You are the epitome of one sidedness, with unbelievable ideas and wants. NEGOTIATIONS IN GOOD FAITH could get you more than you deserve. Wake up before you cause this country more angst and disruption. It will get you more than stupid demands.

    September 6, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  17. Longhorn who speaks the truth.

    Because some of them not a lot have intelligence.

    September 6, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  18. Dan

    As a Democrat, I have no problem with differing ideas within the Democratic party about how government should be involved. It's much better than the legislators-dont-get-their-own-mind Republican approach.

    September 6, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  19. blm

    Because the "liberals" as they like to call themselves are the ones that want to turn our freedom loving republic into a gov't owned, gov't run socialistic nightmare. Get the drift Mr. Ellison. Considering you took your oath on a Koran, you're credibility is minimal.

    September 6, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  20. T'SAH from Virginia

    I watched this LIVE today and OH BOY, was I yelling at the TV screen shouting YES! when Keith made these points!! Why is it that the Democrats ALWAYS have to give in – we should STAND for what we believe in and go FULL SPEED AHEAD on our beliefs? We always CAVE IN – just like we did for the Iraq war and we should not have.

    We need to go with the PUBLIC OPTION and that's that!!! The Party of NO is going to TALK BAD about us anyway – whether we go with the PUBLIC OPTION or not!!! I already heard one REPUB stating that if President Obama drops the public option part of the bill there is still OTHER things in the bill we DON"T agree with!!!! You see – the REPUBLI-CAN'Ts have NO intentions of passing this bill with us – so, KICK THEM TO THE CURB!!

    September 6, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  21. nyjia

    "'Why should the liberals always cave?" - That's right. I was asking exactly the same thing.

    Seems to me that Dems simply don't know how to exercise their power when they have it, and Republicans will abuse it whenever they get a chance.

    Not voting for either party next time around has suddenly become a serious option. How sad...

    September 6, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  22. Mike Dallas

    After this latest absurdity from the republicans about an 18 minute speech, I say kick them to curb and go without them and use reconcilation.

    They have proven time and time again, they cannot and will not play well with others, so now is the time to kick them out of the sandbox and into time-out.

    September 6, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  23. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    Appearing on a follow-up panel discussion on “This Week,” Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader, said Republicans would be open to a public option after five years “if insurance companies haven’t cleaned up their act.” - New York Times, "White House Weighing Public Health Care Option", Joseph Burger, September 6, 2009

    After decades of abusive practice, GOP wants to give private health insurers FIVE more years to shape up before they are shipped out by a trigger.

    Are you willing to be ripped off for five more years?
    Who will give the American people the first chance at the Public Plan?
    I bet you the world is laughing at our debating over a Public Plan in the 21st century.

    September 6, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  24. Nevada dude

    Anything less than a public option will be regarded as everyone as a defeat for the democrats. Dems will be ridiculed for being forced to water down their ideals while holding the white house and majorities in both houses of congress, and rightly so.

    on the other hand, should they push the public option and lose by a few votes or a filibuster in the senate, then they can go into mid-term elections pointing a big finger at conservatives for being obstructionists, for big corporations, anti-worker, etc.

    i dont know what in the world the administration is thinking. i am all for working together, but when the other side wont meet you half way and resorts to infantile attacks, name-calling and disinformation, you arent dealing with a reasonable partner.

    take the gloves off Barack!

    September 6, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  25. Go Obama

    Great job, Rep Ellison! That took courage and real principles. I thank you for speaking the truth. Public Option Now.

    September 6, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
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