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. Ernie in LA

    Why should libs cave? They are out numbered. If you had such great ideas you might not have to "cave."

    September 6, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  2. DeeDee

    What President Obama is going to have to accept is that the Republicans cannot work with him because they do not believe in bi-partisanship. They only want it when they want something. They will never love President Obama. They will hate him forever for daring to win the Presidency. He needs to accept that they are his enemies forever. They don't have the courage to speak up when their followers wish the presidency harm or when they blow things out of proportion like his speech to schoolkids. This all shows that the Republicans are not about working with Democrats, so the President might as well do what he thinks is right and let the chips fall where they may.

    September 6, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  3. Gary

    The country is not liberal or conservative. Most americans are in the middle or just a little bit right of center. The liberal politicians have positions that the overwhelming majority of the country do not like so they should cave and compromise so that we get good policies for the whole country....I would give the same advice to ultraconservative politicians as well.

    September 6, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  4. jon

    "Why should the liberals always cave?" Are you kidding? Last time I checked the liberals held majorities in both houses, as well as winning the White House. You can do whatever you like, you can't blame this one on conservatives. Your president should have pushed for health care at the start of his administration, not nine months in. He has spent trillions of tax payers' dollars on his elitest socialist cronies like Pelosi. Let's face facts, President Obama doesn't really care for the truly helpless people in this society. Once again the poor are without a voice.

    September 6, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  5. Yahbut

    So Congressman Ellison thinks that a public option is vital to reform based on evidence. I wonder where he has gotten his evidence? Everything I have ever heard and read about the type of reform that is being talked about is NOT what the people of the United States need or want. We go to western Canada and even though some of the Canadian citizens think that their health care is free we all know that it is not. It is especially bad for anyone who needs an operation and anyone whoe is 60 or over. Has Mr. Ellison held any town meetings during their last break? If so, I'll bet everyone in his district didn't agree with him. I lived in Minnesota for years an they are, as a whole, pretty independent thinking people. Why the big rush to make such a sweeping change in health care reform? Since this is such a serious problem really LISTENING

    September 6, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  6. Mark

    Because liberals (idiots) only represent a small fraction of the country. The moderates democrats and republicans know the danger of bankrupting the country!!

    September 6, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  7. David Wiener

    I agree with the representative. When the GOP was in power, with a far less firm majority, they rammed everything through they could and spit at the Dems while they did it. Democrats owe the GOP nothing; no compromise, no voice, and certainly not any respect. That is a two way street, and the GOP has already shown its true colors while in power.

    Dems should do what the people who elected them want done – not what the other side wants. They lost. We won. Get on with it, already.

    September 6, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  8. Bob

    Clowns to the left of me, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

    September 6, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  9. Ndubueze Chuku

    Former President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sold America a war based on lies but President Obama cannot sell America a health care reform that includes public option. If a past president could sell us "Death", why cant President Obama sell us "Life"? What an Irony?
    Democrat for Life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 6, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  10. Sean the thinker

    Rep Ellision is absolutely right. There are millions of Americans who are outraged that the President and the Democrats are placating the Republicans and others who oppose the public option. It seems like their voices are lost in the sea of selfvishness of those who seem unconcerned that Millions of Americans are without insurance, or have sub insurance. This sentiment is unamerican.

    September 6, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  11. Bob

    Did you hear? Obama is going to give a speech about his thoughts on healthcare. It will be kind of a greatest hits from his last 100 speeches on the topic.

    September 6, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  12. Ren from Baltimore

    Hear ye!

    I am tired of always going the extra mile. It's been a long life, a lot of "going along to get along," and it's time for some fair redistribution. Enough giving in, Mr. President.

    September 6, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  13. Jean 2

    A trigger is a trick. Why do Dems give up so much for so little in return? It is as if Dems do not have the guts to go all the way for excellance. They must humor everyone else. The United States belong to all of it's citizens.

    September 6, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  14. Obummer - One and Done

    Because Liberals are still in the minority. Independants elected Obummer, not Liberals. Independants are turning away from Obummer in droves, and that leaves Liberals to defend their dying dream, alone. They have to cave now, and will cave more.

    September 6, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  15. David

    The government that governs best, governs least. The liberals would be wise to always remember that. Jimmy Carter Jr. is about to e rendered politically ineffectual for the next 3 years. Why? Because the liberals have failed to realize while they need a nanny state, the majority of US adults do not.

    September 6, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  16. Jilli

    I'm with you Mr. Ellison, time to show a little backbone. Time for logic and pragmatism from the Dems in a maze of repulican lunacy. Eventually people will come to their senses and realize what's truly best for them – even if it is a black president and the democrats that make it happen. Time to grow up repubs and look toward the future – not the political future, but the economic future and the future of health care not only for us, but for coming generations. The status quo is not sustainable.

    I just wonder, how many "tea baggers" would be rallying so vehemently against the public option if they found themselves laid off and either paying the horrendous costs for cobra, or doing without health insurance. I think they might be changing their tune – at least they would if they had any sense behind all that delustional anger.

    September 6, 2009 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  17. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Why should liberals always cave?......BECAUSE THEY'RE ALWAYS WRONG!

    .........and notice how you never hear the democrats mention the words TORT REFORM, even though frivulous lawsuits are one of the main reasons our healthcare costs are so high? I wonder if the millions and millions of dollars the democrats get each year from the ambulance-chasing trial lawyers have something to do with this.

    September 6, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  18. Shellie

    We better support healthcare reform now, if we don't the Republicans will NEVER do anything about it in the future. This is our last chance for reform!

    September 6, 2009 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  19. Kirk

    Republicans have become baseless and nonproductive.

    September 6, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  20. You asked Why

    Why you ask? Well if I told you why it would not be printed here.

    Lets just say, you are weak and incapable of forming a consolidation that lasts more than a few months on anything. That's because you are all liberals and liberals are very passionate about their cause, but each of of you are passioned about your own cause and think that it is the most important.

    Whereas the conservatives are only passioned about one single thing right now. Ensuring that Obama remains a lame president and gets the boot in 2012.

    Now do you understand?

    September 6, 2009 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  21. justsane

    here, here! ellison can be my representative any day!!

    September 6, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  22. eolufemi

    I like the fact that there are still some liberals that stand by their principles. This country doesn't work when one side is constantly holding court and forcing losing compromises upon the other. The liberals wanted a single payer system. They compromised by letting the republicans keep their employer based system, but expected to at least get a fall-back system for those who so chose to get an affordable government option like medicare, which the seniors of this country seem to enjoy.

    September 6, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  23. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Liberals are willing to understand the other side of the issue and are willing to incorporate other ideas. Most conservatives that are well known are blow hards that have the attitude of "its my way or the highway;" better yet their perspective is "everyone is wrong but me and those that agree with me. Unless it is a Republican like Bob Dole, most Republicans don't care about the other side and are very unlikely to listen because it isn't their ideology.

    September 6, 2009 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  24. mb-texas

    Agree with the above,why discuss and then cave in on the item that was at the front of health care plan.

    September 6, 2009 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  25. Nobama

    Why should they cave? Because what they are doing is unconstitutional. It is time to run the liberals out of this country, by force if necessary, starting with the puppet master George Soros.

    September 6, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
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