Tags: obama | public | option

Obama Mute on Public Option

Monday, 07 Dec 2009 08:48 PM

By Theodore Kettle

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During his Sunday rescue mission to Capitol Hill to encourage Democratic senators to iron out differences that threaten passage of a health reform bill, President Barack Obama reportedly shocked some in the room by not once mentioning the government-run public health option so important to liberals.

Buried toward the end of a lengthy Monday story in the health section of The New York Times was a description of Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut being “thrilled that Mr. Obama did not once mention the public option,” with Lieberman reiterating that “he was prepared to vote against the bill if the public plan was included.”

The dismal lack of popularity for the costs and intrusiveness of Congress’ proposed reform may explain why the president chose not to tout one of its main features.

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Democrats will probably need 60 votes in the Senate to pass their Obamacare legislation into law, possibly requiring Lieberman, or the support of some Republican moderates like Olympia Snowe of Maine. Both are opposed to the public option.

Without a government-managed medical scheme to compete with private insurance companies, however, the bill may lose the support of liberal Senate Democrats like Sherrod Brown of Ohio.  Brown has said he refuses to water down the public option any further.

To liberals, who want a European type single payer government health system, the public option is already a compromise down from that.  But liberal and centrist Democratic senators have been charged by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to find middle ground.  The moderates want something resembling the popular health scheme that covers members of Congress and federal employees, which has a huge choice of hundreds of private plans and no government option.  Senators who veer left are unlikely to go for that, and might vote against the final version of Obamacare if that were part of it.

Amid all the serious division that now exists, a Gallup poll showed only 35 percent support for the Democrats’ health reform, while the latest Rasmussen poll found only 38 percent support.  Rasmussen even found that 49 of voters consider the current healthcare system to be “good or excellent,” with only 27 percent rating it “poor.”

If that level of opposition continues, a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president could end up enacting a big government takeover of the U.S. healthcare system into law with most voters opposed to them doing so – a fact Republicans are sure to exploit in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

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