Matt Taibbi says that Rahm Emanuel’s health care debacle could be to the Obama administration what the Iraq war was to George Bush.
Matt says that progressives in the House might not vote for a bill that does not have a public option. If that’s true, it’s because of external pressure, not internal resolve. They were dragged kicking and screaming to that position. They knew — as we did — in late June that co-ops were going to be fobbed off as a "public plan." They did not want to publicly commit to draw a line in the sand.
June 15: Max Baucus announces his "co-op" plan, which was quite obviously developed to substitute for the public plan. Jerrold Nadler rightly calls it a "fake public plan."
June 23: We announce our whip count effort to get members of Congress to pledge to vote against any health care bill without a strong public plan. "The American public is on our side, and they need to know that Kent Conrad’s co-op plan is just kabuki."
June 24: Leaders of the Quad Caucus come together to say that they represent 117 members of the House who will vote against any health care bill that does not have a robust public option. But when readers call the offices of individual members, nobody will confirm this. We’re told by Hill staffers that they believe naming no names makes this stronger, and they’re angry at us for calling attention to the weakness of their strategy to hide under the umbrella of the caucus.
July 1: Donna Edwards, someone that the online community raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for in her two runs for the House, who campaigned on health care reform, won’t return my emails or calls for 10 days, so I write about it.
July 9: Lynn Woolsey says she’s got 60 votes who will vote against any bill that doesn’t have a public option. I wrote that "if Lynn Woolsey’s got 60 votes, I’ve got leprechauns in my laundry room." Having been through the supplemental battle and knowing the value of having those commitments be public, I said if she had them, she should name them.
July 9: When progressive members of congress simply will not answer our questions or those of their constituents about what they’ll do if there’s no public plan in the final bill, we hire Mike Stark to go up on Capitol Hill and confront them with a simple question: will you or won’t you commit to voting against a bill that does not have a strong public option?
July 15: The Progressive Caucus "leaks" a list with the names of 50 members who will not vote for a plan that "does not meet the Progressive Caucus criteria," incluging a strong public plan.
July 21: We call all 50 offices. Not one member will confirm what Diane Watson said.
July 30: 53 (later 57) progressive members of the House sign a letter saying that they will vote against a bill that gives in to the demands of Mike Ross and the Blue Dogs on the Energy & Commerce committee, who insist that a public plan not be tied to Medicare reimbursement rates.
August 1: Mazie Hirono speaks the truth: "Ultimately, Hirono said she was a progressive who firmly believes in the public option, but that she was also someone who counted votes and that the White House would be pressuring them to make a deal."
August 3: Progressives, led by Jan Schakowsky, cave to the Blue Dogs, who get what they want on Energy & Commerce. In exchange, progressives get a symbolic vote on single payer that will not pass. Pelosi laughs at the idea that in the end, they would vote against any health care bill and keep it from passing.
August 14: At Netroots Nation, Donna Edwards asks me if we’ll do a campaign to thank the 57 progressives who signed the letter saying they would vote down any bill that didn’t have a public option tied to Medicare. I said they gave that up three days later. She assured me that it would be in the final House bill.
August 17: The 57 members of Congress add 3 more to their number, and they sign a letter saying that they won’t vote for any bill THROUGH CONFERENCE that doesn’t have a strong public option.
August 19: Blogs across the internet raise over $160,000 in 24 hours to support these 60 members of Congress.
August 20: The Hill reports that there are those among the 60 signatories who would accept co-ops as a public plan, and others who don’t think the commitment holds through conference. Among those who signed the letter and now won’t say what they would do in conference: Donna Edwards.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think that the people who gave money to these members of Congress for making a promise to hold the line on the public option THROUGH CONFERENCE are going to flush this one down the memory hole? That people in strong progressive districts are going to forget this commitment, and they’ll just stand by while they swap out co-ops for a true public plan?
I don’t think so.
If this pressure was exerted from within the progressive caucus, it would be one thing. But it wasn’t. This was created externally, by a true grassroots movement, without the support of MoveOn, HCAN, the unions, the think tanks, or any of the other normal well-funded progressive validators living in the veal pen, who have been AWOL through the whole thing. Rahm told them to sit on the sidelines, and they have.
Does anyone think that intensity of feeling is just going to go away? That people will simply accept Obama’s "goody bag" of health care toenail clippings which delivers nothing but a political victory for him, and give up on their dreams of delivery from the current health care system? Taibbi’s right — this will be to Obama what the Iraq War was to Bush.
But instead of repeating the mistakes of the Republicans, who allowed their representatives to line up behind George Bush and walk their party over the cliff, grass roots progressives are the ones who are taking control of the health care debate. They have rejected the discredited progressive leadership of the veal pen, and they are telling their progressive members of Congress that they will not accept a health care bill with a co-op "bait and switch."