As Randy Shaw noted the other day, people invested a lot in Obama’s campaign and many are understandably loath to believe that they were sold a bill of goods with regard to health care. But that fiction gets harder and harder to maintain.
Here’s Booman, upset that I said that the trigger was something that Rahm Emanuel “has been fighting for since he [Obama] took office”:
Rahm Emanuel floated the trigger in the Wall Street Journal on July 7th, which is hardly “since he took office.” Also, Rahm Emanuel didn’t actually take office; Barack Obama did. Emanuel is the chief of staff to the president, not the president. He’s not the decider, and he doesn’t go give quotes to the Wall Street Journal that are at cross-purposes with his boss’s wishes. His July 7 quote should be taken in the context in which it was given. The White House was trying to break through an impasse on the Senate Finance Committee and get them to report out a bill before the August recess. That effort failed, and we were rewarded with the Tea Party spectacle that crippled momentum for reform, including a triggerless public option.
I bring his up because he had to work really, really hard to come up with this interpretation of events. The idea that the “trigger” was something that was only mentioned once by Rahm in a very narrow context of a July impasse is something you could only believe if you were a complete stranger to Mr. Google:
February January 2009 — Sam Stein of the Huffington Post: “[A] source close to the administration, who has been in contact with the White House on health care matters, said that Emanuel has been “floating” the trigger compromise since January.”
June 2 — Obama, Senate Dems Consider Public Health Care Option With A Trigger: “Multiple Democratic sources tell the Huffington Post that the White House and key members of the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committees are in the process of hammering out key principles on health care reform — with a meeting scheduled at the West Wing this afternoon. One of the components will be music to progressive ears: that any bill includes an option publicly run health insurance coverage. But it also comes with a caveat that could engender opposition from that very same constituency [a trigger].”
July 7 — Wall Street Journal: “On Monday, Mr. Emanuel said the trigger mechanism would also accomplish the White House’s goals. Under this scenario, a public plan would kick in under certain circumstances when competition was judged to be lacking.”
September 2 — Marc Ambinder: “The White House hopes that, having voted for a public option, House Dems would accept a “trigger” as part of a conference committee compromise rather than putting the kibosh on the entire health care reform project. In some ways, this strategy is old, and in some ways it’s new. For months, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been pushing the idea of a “trigger” internally, and he and Snowe regularly trade legislative and political intelligence.”
September 9 — The President himself, in his speech before the joint session of Congress: “[S]ome have suggested that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies [ed -- "Snowe" trigger plan]. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring.”
September 22 — Bloomberg: White House Budget Director Peter Orszag “signaled the administration doesn’t consider a government-run insurance program essential to the legislation. He suggested it would be sufficient to either create nonprofit insurance-purchasing cooperatives or set “triggers” to activate a public option if needed to cut costs.
September 23 — Mike Lux, Open Left: “Some senior White House staffers are now beginning to try to sell this trigger to progressive groups as the compromise version of a public option, saying the White House doesn’t want to have a floor fight in the Senate, and that they can always fix it in conference committee.”
September 30 — Karen Tumulty, Time Magazine: “[T]he Obama White House has made no secret of its belief that the trigger could be the compromise on the public option that the President has been looking for.”
October 13 — Rahm Emanuel on PBS NewsHour: “[The President] believes strongly because of what it achieves in the sense of keeping the competition that insurance companies need, so the prices don’t continue to jump and out of control, that, if there are other ways to achieve that goal, as you know, Senator Snowe has the idea of a trigger, that, in case that price isn’t achieved or that competition isn’t achieved, there be a trigger that then the option, a public option, would come available.”
October 14 — NYT reports that “two senior administration officials” say the White House “looked favorably” on Olympia Snowe’s plan for a trigger. “[I]n private conversations with Ms. Snowe, Mr. Obama has brought up her idea for a trigger that would create a government-run plan in states where at least 5 percent of residents lacked access to affordable care. One senior White House official called the idea ‘very reasonable.’”
October 15: Bloomberg: “The Obama administration signaled a willingness to compromise on a proposed government-run health- insurance company by praising Senator Olympia Snowe’s plan to start the entity only if private insurers don’t meet targets … A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while President Barack Obama prefers the public option, Snowe’s trigger was a potentially good compromise if the Senate decides to pursue it.”
October 23 — Brian Beutler, TPM: “High level White House officials have floated the trigger trial balloon a number of times in the press, and it seems they continue to do so, even at this crucial stage of the health care reform process, when their involvement is greatest. That has senators who support the public option concerned.”
October 23 — CNN: “In recent days, two administration officials have told CNN that the prevailing White House opinion is for the Senate health care bill to include a so-called “trigger” mechanism proposed by Snowe that would bring a public option in the future if thresholds for expanding coverage and lowering costs go unmet in coming years.”
October 23: Mike Allen says “Administration officials have been telling POLITICO for weeks now that [a “trigger” option] is the most likely compromise?”
October 24 — Sam Stein and Ryan Grim, Huffington Post: “President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan ‘triggered’ into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks
A “trigger” is something that Rahm Emanuel has been fighting for all along. It defies all reason to believe that someone who has followed the health care debate could seriously pretends otherwise. Rahm is in charge of negotiating health care for the President, who has been (contrary to prevailing myths) intimately involved in the process of crafting the health care bill. From the NY Times in August (one of many such articles):
Mr. Obama and his top aides have immersed themselves in the Senate Finance Committee process. The president talks to Mr. Baucus several times a week, people briefed on their conversations say. Mr. Obama has also held a few calls with the panel’s ranking Republican, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa.
Booman is right about one thing though — Rahm wouldn’t be doing this without Obama’s approval. Obama wants “triggers,” and has since Rahm started pushing them in January 0f 2009.
It’s time that people took off the rose colored glasses and faced the fact that Obama’s “leadership” on health care was empty and passive. He went for the corporate-friendly “win” that enriches the insurance and drug companies, just as he has enriched the banks and failed to hold them to account. Those who look first to others as scapegoats for his actions have apparently not come to grips with the fact that as President of the United States, he’s a very powerful man who is not using that power to advance the progressive agenda they attribute to him.