Nelson OK with trigger, Republicans aren’t

NELSON OK WITH TRIGGER, REPUBLICANS AREN’T…. The Democratic senator most hostile to health care reform, Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska, has made it clear in recent weeks that he’s unlikely to support a public option. He said yesterday, however, that he’s willing to back a “trigger” that would create a public option at some point down the road, should conditions warrant it.

“If, somehow, the private market doesn’t respond the way that it’s supposed to [to other aspects of health care reform], then it would trigger a public option or a government-run option,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, “but only as a failsafe, backstop to the process. And when I say trigger … I don’t mean a hair trigger. I mean a true trigger — one that would only apply if there isn’t the kind of competition in the business that we believe there would be.”

Nelson added that this concession — Dems give up on a public option in the short term, and agree to the trigger for the near future — could move lawmakers closer to a consensus. “That might break the logjam and bring some Republicans on,” he said. “Perhaps with the right combination of ideas and a trigger and things like that, others might join the process.”

But here’s the key: Republicans aren’t looking for concessions; they’re looking to kill the legislation. Indeed, asked about whether a trigger is a possible compromise move, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty both rejected the idea outright yesterday.

It’s hard not to be impressed with these negotiations. Dems say, “How about a public option that would offer consumers a choice, and lower prices through competition?” Republicans reply, “No.” Dems say, “OK, how about a system of non-profit co-ops”? Republicans reply, “No.” Dems say, “How about a trigger, which would bring added competition to the system if private insurers fail to meet certain benchmarks?” Republicans reply, “No.”

It’s one thing to entertain the idea of a trigger to bring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) into the fold and keep Nelson from helping the GOP. But if the idea is that a trigger is a compromise measure that would generate broad, bipartisan support for reform, forget it. Republicans don’t support health care reform, and no combination of concessions will change that.