Emanuel gets an earful

EMANUEL GETS AN EARFUL…. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel irked quite a few members of his own party yesterday when he told the Wall Street Journal how flexible the administration is on health care reform. To hear Emanuel tell it, the White House would accept a “triggers” provision favored by some centrist Republicans, and isn’t wedded to a public option.

As luck would have it, Emanuel also headed to Capitol Hill yesterday afternoon for a meeting with some of the same lawmakers he’d just annoyed with his comments. Roll Call reported that the president’s chief of staff got an earful, but “reassured” Democrats that the White House still wants a public option in the reform package.

Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) warned Emanuel that he would lose the caucus’ votes if the White House compromised on the issue and included a “trigger” that could delay a public insurance plan indefinitely. The trigger idea is backed by conservative Democrats but is anathema to liberals.

“We have compromised enough, and we are not going to compromise on any kind of trigger game,” Woolsey said she told Emanuel. “People clapped all over the place. We mean it, and not just progressives.”

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he was reassured by Emanuel. “He doesn’t stand by that trigger,” Waxman said. “He said the president and his administration and he are for a public plan as one of the options.”

Waxman added that he’s feeling “very optimistic” about the prospects for reform. I’m not as confident, though Waxman’s track record is quite good.

As for Emanuel, here’s hoping the pushback has left him feeling at least a little chastened. The less he emphasizes even more needless compromise, the more likely it is this larger effort will come together.