Heather Graham and MoveOn Team Up for Huge Push on Congress to Pass the Public Option
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If you followed the cues sent by the White House, you'd think the public option was dead. But on the heels of polls showing strong public support for a government health care plan, activists are pushing back hard -- and getting results.
Just days ahead of President Obama's bipartisan health care summit, scheduled for Thursday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee announced that it, together with CREDO Action and Democracy for America, has succeeded in getting the signatures of 120 House members and 23 senators on letters pledging their support for passing a public option through the reconciliation process, a parliamentary maneuver that cannot be blocked by a Senate filibuster. And MoveOn.org Political Action, declaring, "THE PUBLIC OPTION IS BACK," released a new version of its ad featuring actress Heather Graham (of Austin Powers fame) personifying the public option in a race against older, unattractive and out-of-shape insurance company executives. (Video at the bottom of this story.)
On Monday, the White House released a draft of the president's health care plan, which is based on the Senate bill and does not include a public option. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tried to pour water on the idea of using reconciliation to pass a public option, saying, "There are some that are supportive of this.” But, he went on, "There isn’t enough political support in the majority to get this through.”
Yet the effort by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee has been steadily gathering momentum, even gaining the signature of Senator Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the primary committee involved in a reconciliation process. PCCC's Adam Green responded on a barrage of platforms (including Twitter), issuing the following statement:
The White House obviously has a loser mentality -- but America rallies around winners. Polls show that in state after state, voters hate the Senate bill and overwhelmingly want a public option, even if passed with zero Republican votes. More than 50 Senate Democrats and 218 House Democrats were willing to vote for the public option before, and the only way to lose in reconciliation is if losers are leading the fight. That's why Democrats in Congress should ignore the White House and follow those like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez who know that the public option is a political and policy winner.
In addition to the Research 2000 polls cited by Green, a December Reuters poll found that 60 percent of the public supports a government-administered health insurance plan.
MoveOn, for its part, accompanied its announcement of the revamped Heather Graham video with sourcing for all of the ad's claims. (We've posted those beneath the video.)
The letter signed by House members advocating a public option through reconciliation was first advanced by Representatives Jared Polis, D-Colorado and Shelly Pingree, D-Maine, and announced as Rep. Alan Grayson set off to deliver hundreds of thousands of petitions, gathered by PCCC, DFA and CREDO Action, calling for the same thing. (AlterNet's coverage of this event is here.) The Senate letter was first signed by Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado.
What you're seeing here is the classic push-pull of politics. The White House wants to appear to be bipartisan in advance of its big health care summit, so it can say it tried with the Republicans before moving on to pass the bill. Progressives, driven to the brink during the tortuous attempt last year to pass a bill with Republicans on board, have little reason to trust the White House to support a public option, given the tepid lip service given the plan by President Obama in the last go-round.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is said to have told the liberals of his day that he would need their help to make him pass progressive legislation by keeping the heat on him. That appears to be the plan today's progressive activists have for Obama.