WHITE HOUSE ‘COMPLETELY SUPPORTS’ REID’S EFFORTS…. The main story on health care reform over the last few days is that the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid aren’t quite on the same page. Reid, by all accounts, is prepared to move forward with a reform bill that includes a public option and a state opt-out compromise. President Obama, according to several reports, is skeptical that this bill will generate the necessary support, and sees a “trigger” approach as the path of least resistance.
Last night, Deputy White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer posted an item intended to knock down talk about differences between the leaders. It reads in its entirety:
A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false.
In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President’s position.
Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate. President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate.
It’s a noteworthy statement for a couple of reasons. Pfeiffer notes, for example, that the president not only continues to support a public option — with no mention of triggers — but “completely supports” Reid’s efforts. Given the talk that the White House had shown minimal enthusiasm for Reid’s purported plan, this on-the-record endorsement is helpful.
I also found it interesting that the statement became necessary at all. Since late Friday, there was a growing sense among reform advocates on the Hill and off that the White House needed to signal a) its ongoing support for a public option; and b) its backing for Reid’s strategy. The Pfeiffer statement suggests strongly that the White House is well aware of the consternation and willing to make its intentions clear.
What’s more, a senior administration official told Jonathan Cohn yesterday, “We will be 100 percent behind whichever direction Reid decides to go…. Reid hasn’t asked for help. He is polling his caucus to make a decision on the opt out or the trigger. Whichever way he chooses, president Obama will help make the sale publicly and privately.”
A reader emailed me yesterday asking, “Am I missing something here? I really do not understand what is driving the White House to be so reluctant about the public option.” I don’t think it’s a substantive reluctance — this doesn’t seem to be a case in which the president actually prefers a trigger to the public option with the opt-out. It’s entirely about pragmatism and vote-counting — the White House isn’t at all convinced the votes will be there for the better bill when push comes to shove.
That said, as of yesterday, the president’s team seems to be offering unequivocal support for Reid’s preferred approach, which will no doubt be welcome news on the Hill.