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. kas

    There is a simple answer to this simple question.
    Because they are always wrong.

    September 6, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  2. Little Change from Obama

    I hope that the Liberals refuse to cave. That way they go into the history books much like the Far Right from Newt Gingrich's "Republican Revolution".

    When will these extremists learn. The majority of Americans will not abide any far left or far right ideology for long.

    September 6, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  3. Rose

    The Liberal Dems don't need to "cave". All they have to do is listen to the people. Most of us do not want this plan they are trying to ram through just so they can say "WE DID IT'
    After reading much of the plan, I believe they government has over stepped their bounds and maybe some constitution issues.

    September 6, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  4. JOBLESS IN IOWA

    Just once, maybe ALL THE POLITICIANS should work for who put them there and not for private agendas.

    September 6, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  5. Tony in Maine

    The media worships at the bipartisan alter, but bipartisan means doing it the conservative way because of the slant given the news.

    Atwater taught Reagan to talk about the "liberal media," and the meme has since been repeated so often it is accepted as truth. In reality, it is truthiness.

    In truth the media is center right with a major lean on editorial and opinion pages to the right.

    September 6, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. S M R

    The dems don't need to cave,we have the majority and anyone to vote against the bill will be ousted come 2010, SIMPLE AS THAT!!!

    September 6, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  7. B

    Caving in seems to be part of the Democrats DNA now.....

    I wish Obama would get a shot of Testosterone and take control of this situation. So many Americans that want this to succeed and if he lets this get away it will be tough to deal with any other important issues.

    September 6, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  8. Ken, Arizona

    The President should insist on a public option and not a "trigger", which would only buy the insurance industry and the republicans time. If by chance the republicans retake the house, senate and/or the White House before the public option is triggered, they will repeal that provision. For the life of me, I don't understand why all of those poor ass so-called conservatives are fighting this. They're being raped by the insurance industry, too. Hatred is amazing.

    September 6, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  9. Sharon Samson

    That's right, why should they? The Dems acted like whipped dogs during the Bush administration. Now it's time to stop their posturing and whining and get behind their president, no questions asked, and no demands made. Support the man. He's at least trying to do a good job and before him we hadn't had that in eight years while Congress sat back and let this nation be run into the ground.

    September 6, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. Hopeful Optimist

    I am in total agreement with Rep. Ellison that the Dems should pass the public option bill using the reconciliation method. Forget what the Reds think, they are against everything. Too many Dems are caving to the threats of the Reds, but they don't have the political muscle to follow through on such threats.

    They remind me of schoolyard twits who mouth, mouth, mouth. Slap 'em in that mouth and they'll get all wee wee'd up like the Prez says. When the American people see how a public system works they will flock to it because it works much better than the current system. And when the pols on both sides see how the people like it they will go along too.

    September 6, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  11. once upon a horse

    I think this caving in all goes back to the Reagan years when the GOP declared "LIBERAL" to be a bad word. Nothing but a bunch of pot-smoking, open minded, sex crazed, atheists that have no morals and are bad for the country. Forget that far right conservatism has always been a hot bed for racism and sexism and other acts of intolerence. Even trying to change that name to PROGRESSIVE hasn't worked much when the left branch of the party always seems to have to cave in to the GOP and the right. GROW A PAIR! Time to show American that progressive is good and looks out not only for it's own but all Americans. Many are starting to tire of the far right rhetoric the GOP is spilling out and time for a change. The moderates and progressives need to jump on it and lead instead of follow for a change.

    September 6, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  12. MatthewDetroit

    Too Bad that our lousy president is such a big liar..
    He puts in a CZAR that is a communist.
    Now the guy finally resigns.
    Why does the president surround himself with socialists and communists. Does he not understand that this is the United States of America. We are a free country and we want to stay free.
    Dont touch our healhcare.
    Stay out of our pockets.
    HE will next be for REPARATIONS. HE will be into STEALING from everyone and then REDISTRIBUTING the wealth.
    He is a liar. A cheat. A socialist. PERIOD.

    September 6, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  13. Amanda

    THANK YOU Rep. Ellison, I could not have said it better. Public option is essential. Compromise is NOT in order on this one. Period.

    September 6, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  14. Big Ed

    The Democrats better stand united and deliver, or the GOP will make sure they fail. Stand and deliver!

    September 6, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  15. MatthewDetroit

    The LIBERALS should CAVE. This is NOT a socialist country.
    We have different ideas but we are not SOCIALISTS here.
    There socialist agenda is NOT what the people of America want.
    NO ONE WANTS SOCIALISM except for Obama and the friends he sorrounds himself with.

    September 6, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  16. Trigger.....the horse

    This idea of a "trigger" is a joke....these fascist insurance and drug companies propose the triggers that take place only if a particular plan does not work. But for that to happen is nearly impossible. Why do you think they support triggers? Read the fine print. I hope someday these Forrest Gump southern republicans and fool democrats will someday understand that a public option is the only way to keep these companies in line. How many ex-employees do you have to hear until you believe what they are trying to do to us. I guess you would back these ripoff artists rather than receive fair priced health insurance. Just keep on voting against your own self-interest.

    September 6, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  17. rachel

    Because most people arent far to the left and liberls are and if you want something passed you need to compromise. I notice President Obama will be naming another czar monday and auto czar.

    September 6, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  18. David In West Virginia

    I agree with Rep. Ellison that it always seems to be Liberals that does the compromising. In an article in the Herald Dispatch, Huntington, WV on Sunday, 9/6/09, Jean Edward Smith, professor at Marshall University and author of "F.D.R." speaks of Pres. Obama's apparant readiness to backtrack on the Public Option. In this great editorial, he spoke of Pres. Roosevelt's New Deal and his many dealings with the Big Banks, the wealthy and how Roosevelt held to his guns and governing in difficult times. The editorial is very worthwhile reading for President Obama or anyone interested in the workings of the Democratic process even when the Republican Party tried to demonize him as the Devil Incarnate as he passed needed reforms. One interesting point to note, is that Jean Edward Smith stated that Roosevelt rode up PA Avenue with Hoover to the iauguration in March, 1933, but he never saw or spoke to him again. F.D.R. would be a great read for all who loves democracy and the democratic party! Now, on with the Public Option for Health Care!

    September 6, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  19. Brigitte

    I agree with Keith Ellison that the liberals shouldn't cave in. I see a public option to health insurance as crucial. Only the USA stoops so low as to use people's suffering for profit, denying them even elementary care unless they subjugate themselves under the yoke of insurance companies. Eliminate the skyrocketing profits of the insurance industry and health care will become quite affordable, without cutbacks or rationing or any other compromises. How the Republicans can defend the idea of depriving millions of people of basic care in order to safeguard the buck is not understandable; it is inhuman.

    September 6, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  20. Ken

    "Why should the liberals always cave?"

    Now this made me laugh!

    September 6, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  21. Sophie

    Good for him! Obama has been a disaster so far. Only seven months in and we can see that Mr. No Registered Lobbyists has been pillaging the citizenry to pay his corporate shills their pound of flesh. So much for change we can believe in. This is politics as usual. This is what happens when you vote for a Brand.

    September 6, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  22. Terence

    This is the first time, in a long time, that someone has actually said what needs to be said. The Democrats got their President, they got their majorities in the House and Senate, now it's time for them to show some backbone. The Republicans are the party of no! I cannot see why Obama hasn't grasped that fact yet.
    Also, it's was refreshing to hear Mr. Ellison refute the Republican talking point about how horrible the government is. Those who complain about too much government don't seem to mind using government services.
    They use the phone lines to call the fire department to put out fires, they use the post office, they use the electric grid to turn on their lights and they drive on government roads. It's great to see Mr. Ellison bringing reality to this arguement.

    September 6, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  23. Eugene

    The "trigger" is like all the other forms of divert and delay thus far, not just against health reform. These tactics are familiar to all who know civil rights history. "Come back next year"....for what folks have deserved all along? We don't buy it.

    September 6, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  24. Simmy

    "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."

    Props to Rep. Ellison.....I will pray for his election to the Senate....He is right on.....As strongly as I support President Obama, I am miffed by his potential to sell-out to a bunch of losers....If he doesn't stand for something (public plan option) he'll fall for anything (a watered down healthcare plan that will appease big insurance companies and Repubs but not help average Americans)......

    Republicans don't know which way is up.....If they did, they would have opened those pink tornadoes when FP Bush was giving away the farm (our country)......But I have to give it to the GOP, they can out-lie, out-propagandize, out-smear-campaigns Democrats any day........When it comes to dirt, they throw it well...

    September 6, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  25. unshrub

    Here is another questions. Why should conservatives be allowed to continue to lie about liberals and Obama?

    September 6, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
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