In a candid interview with the Center for American Progress [on Tuesday], former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle acknowledged
that the public option didn't survive the health care debate because of
a "understanding" that the White House reached with health care
industry stakeholders -- particularly with hospital and insurance
company trade associations. But the White House has long denied this
suggestion -- which was, until now, based mostly on speculation
-- and within hours of the report's initial publication, Daschle, a
close White House ally, retracted his statement entirely.
"I don't think it was taken off the table completely. It was
taken off the table as a result of the understanding that people had
with the hospital association, with the insurance (AHIP), and others,"
Daschle told Wonk Room's Igor Volsky. "I mean I think that part of the
whole effort was based on a premise. That premise was, you had to have
the stakeholders in the room and at the table. Lessons learned in past
efforts is that without the stakeholders' active support rather than
active opposition, it's almost impossible to get this job done. They
wanted to keep those stakeholders in the room and [the public option] was the price some thought they had to pay."
That rendering flies in the face of the White House's narrative, so
TPM emailed Daschle to ask whether his statement reflected first-hand
knowledge of the stakeholder negotiations, or was a conclusion he'd
drawn independently. In response, he walked back the entire claim.
"In describing some of the challenges to passage of the public option
in the health reform bill, I did not mean to suggest in any way that
the President was not committed to it," Daschle emails. "The President
fought for the public option just as he did for affordable health care
for all Americans. The public option was dropped only when it was no longer viable in Congress, not as a result of any deal cut by the White House.
While I was disappointed that the public option was not included in the
final legislation, the Affordable Care Act remains a tremendous
achievement for the President and the nation."
And so the game of whodunnit continues.