I thought it was weird when Olympia Snowe suddenly started pushing triggers. Rahm Emanuel has been lobbying for them since early in the year, and lately the White House has been trying to burnish the image of "triggers" by pressing liberal validators into service. And now, according to Marc Ambinder, lo and behold:
Senior White House officials, in conversations with reporters today, are floating the idea that President Obama is secretly negotiating with Sen. Olympia Snowe over a health care compromise that would phase in a government-funded health care alternative if private insurance companies fail to meet quality and cost benchmarks over a certain period of the time. The public discussion of the Snowe "compromise" is meant to test the reaction of House Democrats, who will pass a bill that includes an immediate public option added to a new health insurance exchange. 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.
That's great. Not satisfied with working through Blue Dogs any more, Rahm is now using Republicans to write his trillion dollar bailout of the health care industry. Is this a great country or what.
And what does the White House think of the 60 Democrats in the House who pledged to vote against any bill that does not have a public plan?
For a while now, Obama's aides have believed that the 50-odd progressives in the House who are demanding a public option will get their jollies if they can pass a bill out of the House, and that they will be too afraid to oppose a bill that makes it out of a subsequent conference committee -- a bill that President Obama would specifically endorse.
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Nothing new here: give the base a little kabuki, pass a bill with a public plan out of the House, then get real in conference. Except it's looking like things may have accelerated. They may be afraid to let a public plan pass the House for fear it will get too entrenched, so it looks like they might try and kill it now.
And what about reconciliation?
The threat of passing a bill through reconciliation is "real," but it still isn't the "go" option because it is, as of yet, politically unsalable, at least in the opinion of White House aides. The politics of health care have been distorted, they believe, to the point where Obama needs to make the case that the regular (even a-historical) congressional procedure is being used by obstructionists to prevent the passage of the bill. This may be self-evident to some Democrats, but the American people aren't there yet, and until they're there, the White House will do whatever it can to build its 60 vote supermajority.
See, this is where I'm confused. Because if Olympia Snowe is writing the fucking bill, there are 59 Democrats in the Senate -- 60 after they replace Kennedy. The only reason you wouldn't have 60 votes is if the bill is such a piece of shit that DEMOCRATS won't vote for it.
Or, maybe Socialists.