Trigger talk lingers

TRIGGER TALK LINGERS…. By any reasonable measure, the “trigger” public-option compromise should be long gone. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid submitted a plan for CBO scoring, he didn’t even bother to run the numbers on a trigger plan.

As Ezra recently explained, “One of the reasons I assumed Olympia Snowe’s trigger proposal was dead was, well, it looked dead. It was just lying there, unmoving. There were no meetings between Snowe and Schumer, or Snowe and Rockefeller, to try and craft a stronger trigger that would be acceptable to more liberal members. There were no modified proposals coming out of Snowe’s office, or statements from her spokespeople indicating a willingness to entertain changes.”

Moderate Republicans didn’t like the idea. Conservative Republicans didn’t like the idea. Liberal Democrats hated the idea. For reasons that don’t make any sense, Joe Lieberman suggested a trigger was overly ambitious.

And yet, here we are.

Moderate Senate Democrats uncomfortable with Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) health care reform plans are coalescing around Sen. Olympia Snowe and are looking to the centrist Maine Republican to provide them political cover at home and viable policy alternatives on the floor.

Reid’s bill remains largely under wraps pending a Congressional Budget Office analysis. But moderate Democrats — particularly those representing conservative-leaning states — are nervous about what they do know. They are pushing to replace Reid’s public insurance option proposal, which includes an opt-out provision for the states, with Snowe’s plan for a public option “trigger” — preferably before any floor debate on health care reform begins.

On Tuesday, moderate Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) made clear she supports Snowe’s proposal for a public insurance option that would only be triggered in the future if private insurers failed to adequately lower health premiums. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a leading centrist, confirmed that the moderates were continuing to meet with Snowe to strategize a way forward that brings the Republican on board and softens Reid’s bill.

“There’s a possibility that that could occur,” Nelson said. “Right now, we don’t know what the actual version of the plan is because it hasn’t come back from CBO. … My expectation is that it probably doesn’t have enough to get 60 votes to get off the floor if it gets on the floor.”

Added Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), another leading centrist: “I think we as Democrats will rue the day if we don’t find a thoughtful way to make sure that Sen. Snowe’s central premise, perhaps modified … finds a home in the legislation that we finally vote on.”

The Washington Post added today, “Landrieu said she is working with Snowe to build support for the trigger alternative.”

It’s still the wrong way to go.