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Claude Cartaginese

Obama and Progressives Face Off Over Healthcare; Obama Blinks First

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Posted on August 21 2009 1:15 am

Representative Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the socialist-leaning Congressional Progressive Caucus, appeared on Democracy Now! last night, exhorting host Amy Goodman’s predominantly leftwing audience to support the passage of a health care public option. A fews days ago, a rift had developed between so-called “progressives” who continued to favor the public option, and President Barack Obama, who, along with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and some moderate Democrats, seemed to be wavering on the issue.

Grijalva, with the support of his allies in the left wing of the Democratic Party, has threatened to vote against any healthcare legislation that does not include a public health insurance option; he went so far as to co-author a letter to Sebelius, taking her to task for daring to suggest last week that the public option is not the most essential element of Obama’s comprehensive reform package:

“… [F]or us, after single payer was taken off the table, after other actions were taken, for us, as the Progressive Caucus, it became not only essential on a policy side, but on a political and moral side. For us, not to have a public option in there that is not weak, that is not just there as a paper tiger, but in fact has content and the opportunity to grow in the future, if that’s not there, then there is really no great motivation for us to be part of a team that passes health reform without it.”

Clearly rattled by such rhetoric, the President quickly instructed Sebelius to backpedal. Said the HHS Secretary:

“All I can tell you is that Sunday must have been a very slow news day, because here’s the bottom line. Absolutely nothing has changed. We continue to support the public option that will help lower costs, give American consumers more choice and keep private insurers honest.”

Added Obama:

“I continue to support a public option.”

Score one for the “progressives.” The war, however, has not been won.

The good news for the rest of us is that support for the President’s plan, with or without a public option, is eroding by the hour. The infighting between the “progressives” and the more moderate Democrats has given the public-at-large a glimpse into just how far the Democrats are from achieving a consensus on the issue. In addition, the people have also had a chance to observe the all-or-nothing Left’s single-minded obsession with passing — through intimidation, if necessary – their version of a health reform plan.

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