September 6th, 2009
07:35 PM ET
9 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. RealityKing

    Because progressive liberals are monetary idiots!!

    September 6, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  2. Julie

    The insurance companies don't want competition, choice, or having to price their policies competitively. Market place competition used to be the champion capitalistic policy of the Republican party but they lost their backbone and caved into greed. The money is too good from these companies for their campaigns. The Republicans are also setting a new set of rules that, like their idea of giving the presidency extra powers under GW has come back to bite them, their lying smear tactics and disruption of government will come back to bite them when those same tactics are used against them. They truly are shortsighted and apparently lacking intelligence.

    September 6, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  3. Denna

    I believe that President Obama should go for broke and push through health care with the public option. What will the Blue Dog Democrats and the Conservative do? Ride his back and try to stop him at every turn? Oh, that's right; they are already doing that. He has nothing to lose. I think he should strike and put through any of his policies that he can while he still is blessed with a majority. The Republicans are working overtime to thwart this man even though the majority voted for him. The Conservations don't care, they just want to have their way and force us to return to the darkness that permeated America during the Bush regime. Maybe, but I doubt it, common sense will prevail.

    September 6, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  4. So....

    Saving da Burnt book at a time

    No Socialistic, Communistic, Crazy, Freethinker, Educated type gone get in da way of my Corn Syrup additive......I pay my hard earn cash for my pepsicola.....cause I work there is good too right?

    Corporations really do care....about you not gettin to wise....cause den day lose da monies....and day git to put you outta the job!

    Free America, start with free Corporate reign, Insurance, oil and Jesus....all you need kids. figit dat Piece a paper in de Archives,

    Civilization is de enemy of the Cowboy and the Barbarian....

    September 6, 2009 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  5. JoeC

    How will this new entitlement be paid for? If this new govt option is anything like the new Medicare Advantage plans then it will be a nightmare.

    September 6, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  6. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    Why should the liberals always cave? Because liberals always want everyone, liberal or not, to pay for their do-gooding. In effect, they're trying to be generous with other people's money. There are only two ways to do that: You can ask for it politely through, for example, voluntary donations, or you can demand it through, for example, taxation.

    A guy named Robert Heinlein once observed that "There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him." That's not quite true. A worse tyranny is to force a man to pay for something he doesn't want to pay for merely because you think it would be good for someone else.

    So that's why liberals, unless they can devise a means by which their do-gooding is paid for exclusively by people willing to do so, should always cave–doing otherwise is tyranny.

    September 6, 2009 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  7. Betty

    If the Republicans want to take their marbles and go home, let them go. And yes Dems get some backbone and tell it like it really is – for example all of the health giants that are greasing the palms of those who have all of a sudden gotten some sort of concern about the American people. Would there be so much hoopla if big business was getting those millions like they did for 8 year? Were was the outrage then? Of yes, I forgot the President wasn't a Black.

    September 6, 2009 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  8. chris

    didn't have a problem at all w/ the artilcle. as a republican, i would love the dems go down the reconciliation road.

    also, 60 votes in the Seante is a LONG way off. Byrd is on his death bed....and 2010 means the jack a sses on the fence will most certainly punt.

    September 6, 2009 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  9. New Yorker

    Keith Ellison, the first congressman to be sworn in as a muslim is complaining about what? Not making in-roads quick enough?

    September 6, 2009 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  10. Chipster

    Democrats across the nation have worked too hard for too long to achieve the numbers in Congress and a Democratic President to accept some sort of useless, watered-down version of health care reform. Without a public option, it isn't reform. Without a public option, there is no reason to pass a health care Bill. If our Democratic leadership fails to deliver, Republicans will get the opportunity that they thought would be a long time coming again. No, I won't vote for a Republican but I certainly won't waste my time and donations on Democrats if they don't have the determination, courage, and unity to stand for Democratic principles.

    How could I ask the people in my district to vote for them if they throw away this opportunity to restore our economy. We can't do it without meaningful health care reform. If they surrender to lies, false and misleading information, and threats; they will fail their nation. The DOD's health care budget will double in the next 10 years if something isn't done now.

    Democrats – lead or pack up your toys and go home!

    September 6, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  11. Dave in Illinois

    The chickens are coming home to roost. President Obama has promised too many different things to too many people and he can't deliver on all of them. If he satisfies the far left he will lose the center and vice versa. His speech Wednesday will be too little and too late to bring the Democrats back together.

    September 6, 2009 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  12. Steve in Kentucky

    Here's a new conspiracy theory: Obama has handled the health insurance reform issue so badly, so obviously ineptly, that maybe HE is in league with the insurance industry. Now he's people are saying the public option is negotiable.

    As a liberal, I say maybe my support of Obama in 2012 is negotiable.

    I'm tired of seeing the extreme right wing set the agenda and control the debate in this country.

    September 6, 2009 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  13. Neil

    The question should be, "why is the public being ignored?" What happened to government by the people for the people. This nimrod is advocating government, by the libs for money and special interest. Hello...are we still a democracy at all? The people DONT WANT IT!!!

    September 6, 2009 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  14. RenoBill

    I agree. It's time Obama quit reaching out to the party of NO, and started kicking their butts.

    September 6, 2009 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  15. Nea

    Democrats need to know that as long as they continue to fight within their own party whether they be liberals or conservatives they will never get anything done. LISTEN DEMOCRATS the Republicans are united to defeat you, cant you see it and they will do it any way they can, they saw an opening and they are using it to there advantage. We as American are tired of the Republicans and Democrats trying to see who will defeat who in 2010 We need help now 2010 is not promise to no one people need jobs,healthcare,our kids need help now and this President is the one to do it but he cant by himself he need Prayer for 1 from the American people in a postive way and he also need help from his party if not the Republicans so we as Americans are asking you to work with the President or just resign too!

    September 6, 2009 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  16. Rosie

    I see it is okay for the republicans to ram bills thru on reconciliation, but when dems try to do it, it isn't a good thing. I am ashamed of congressional democrats who are saying the dems should not use reconciliation to pass health care reform. When will the democrats in congress get a spine??

    September 6, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  17. Tracy

    I hear you – why should you cave? Man up, speak up and stand your ground. In 2010 you wish you had (when you find yourselves ousted from office)....enough of being bullied into compromising – the Repubs never do and let's face it, they were never for reaching across the aisle in the first place – they have proven this time and time again. So do what you have been elected to do – get the job done that we know that can be done......quit wasting time trying to placate those who have no solution and just do whatever they can to help make sure that this administration is not successful.

    September 6, 2009 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  18. aware

    What a joke!

    Only an idiot would push for a public option. The American people are too smart for this administration! 🙂

    The public option is just another power grab by the wolves in sheep's clothing who don't give a hoot about the people!

    September 6, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  19. Susan

    He's right. Every time the liberals try to appease the right, or even work with them on something, it comes off as looking like the left is weak. Palin claimed a victory over death panels (forgetting that she presided over her own in Alaska) before Congress had even returned to session, and the right ate it up as truth. We have the hard fought majority and we're wasting it. Health care NOW, and for all.

    September 6, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  20. valwayne

    Liberals should cave because their plans will destroy the economy of this country and destroy rather than reform our health care system. And the American people don't support their radical plans and do not want them crammed down their throats!

    September 6, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  21. Jon Krieger

    Because you're always wrong!

    September 6, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  22. the philosopher

    Presently, quite a few really poor people are assisted with health care through Medicaid; all people over 65 are assisted with health care through Medicare; many children are assisted with health care through state-based health care programs. So, why is the idea of assisting working adults obtain health care such a huge issue?? It seems to me that the issue must be something else, but health care is a convenience for people who want to bash the president. Could this be similar to cutting one's nose off to spite one's face??

    September 6, 2009 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  23. Francisco Cardenas

    I find it so hard to understand how the GOP which is anti-abortion, is against the Public Option for Healthcare. What they are telling us is, don't abort your child, but don't expect healthcare for it either!

    September 6, 2009 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  24. pt

    Need to update memory capacity, because there are memory errors in this one. When Reps were in charge, people complained why they had to cave in to the Dems. Recycled opinions. Please give us something fresh.

    September 6, 2009 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  25. mk

    I would like to suggest to the "liberals" out there that they grow a spine and get on with doing what we want. WE WANT A PUBLIC OPTION.

    September 6, 2009 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
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